I have just completed my first year of the executive MBA program at Yale University as a Pozen-Commonwealth Health Leadership Fellow. It was an incredible honor and challenge. I learned so much and gained incredible experience and insight, which I managed to bring to the OLE Health team.
I was recently joined by several members of my fellowship cohort – Dr. Stephen Starks, Fatima Muhammad and Dr. Mika Owen — to participate in the panel of the Yale Health Conference on the Health Justice Justice Movement: Prospects for the Posen-Commonwealth Scholarship, a discussion moderated by Dr. Sisi Calhoun on the most -the relevant topics for achieving health justice and mitigating differences.
My part of the panel focuses on three main areas that I believe are needed to achieve health equity:
- Access to care
- Advocacy and policy change
- Patient engagement
Access to care
Access to care is the most fundamental problem in our healthcare system today. Millions of Americans are uninsured or live in rural areas where health care is not readily available. Even in areas with access to care, many providers do not accept Medicaid, especially for specialized care. We see this all the time at OLE Health as the only non-profit health center in Napa County. We are often one of the few – if not the only – options for our communities. But access is not just about having providers or health centers that will accept the patient. The system is not intended to support people with transport barriers, inability to take time off work or without access to broadband to participate in telehealth. We need to create real access to preventive and primary care that offers the services we need, when and where and how our communities need them. At OLE Health, we offer meetings on weekends or in the evenings, and we try to offer services and programs to alleviate transportation barriers, and we are constantly looking for ways to expand these offerings to meet the needs of our communities. Yet we cannot achieve systemic change alone; here comes advocacy and policy change.
Advocacy and policy change
In order to achieve real change, we need action on the part of legislators. For those who work with vulnerable populations, we need to do a better job of sharing stories with elected officials and decision-makers so that they can understand how politics affects our communities. We must also approach all potential policy decisions carefully and consider the effects of the wave. Often solving a problem in the health system can lead to unintended consequences in another area. For example, consolidating the purchase of pharmacies across the state of California has reduced millions of dollars in revenue for federally qualified health centers, revenues that we use to offset the cost of providing uncompensated care to the uninsured or underinsured. Therefore, policy discussions must include those that will be affected, and steps must be taken to mitigate potential negative impacts.
Empathy and connection are fundamental to health and healing, and no technology can replace the importance of human connection and relationships to engage patients in their care. Our systems, our workforce, our communities are tense, and our care teams are tired. We need to recharge our batteries by providing this time to stay in touch and remember what we value most in being in healthcare. As we continue to see innovation and progress in healthcare and offer more virtual or hybrid options, this must continue to be a priority.
It was energizing to feel the commitment and passion in the room as we discussed equality topics ranging from mental health care for the elderly, prevention of gun violence, the criminal justice system and access to care for low-income and uninsured people and how our color communities are disproportionately affected. Inequalities are widespread and racism in our system must be addressed at a structural level so that everyone can enjoy the highest possible quality of life. I am grateful to all those who participated in the organization of the Yale Health Conference, with a broad focus on the humanization of health through patient-centered innovation. These are complex but critical conversations, and we must continue to develop solutions together.
This blog post originally appeared on LinkedIn.