Health-Care Community Leaders Discuss Health Disparities in Region - Adventist HealthCare

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Media Contact: Tom Grant

Published on November 03, 2010

Health-Care Providers, Community Leaders Discuss How to Eliminate Health Disparities in Region

Adventist HealthCare’s Center on Health Disparities Leads Effort for a Greater Understanding of Obstacles to Bridging Access Gap

Rockville, Md.Adventist HealthCare’s Center on Health Disparities held its fourth annual health disparities conference today, helping 300 health-care, government and community leaders gain a greater understanding of how social and economic barriers can prevent medically underserved populations from receiving needed health-care services.

Across the United States, more people face obstacles in achieving good health. Factors including high levels of stress, poor living or work conditions, long work hours and lack of education are linked to a higher prevalence of health risks and poor overall health.

According to the 2010 Center on Health Disparities Progress Report, 52 percent of whites in Maryland have above a high school education, compared to 43 percent of blacks and 24 percent of Hispanics. Mortality rates are strongly influenced by education level. Those with some college education have a life expectancy of 81.6 years, approximately 6 years longer than those who completed high school or less.

"General health is a result of several external factors,” says Marcos Pesquera, Executive Director of the Center on Health Disparities “This year's conference allowed for further discussion of how access to care, living conditions and work environment are all integral components that shape our health."

Research shows that socioeconomic status along with race and ethnicity correlate with health status. For example:

  • Minorities have lower average socioeconomic status than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts and suffer disproportionately from chronic diseases and other conditions.”
  • Neighborhoods with several fast food restaurants and no supermarket can lead to poor diet and higher body weight.
  • Communities with parks and walking trails encourage exercise and better fitness among residents.
  • Better educational and employment opportunities can heighten the ability of people and communities to access quality health care and services.

The conference was held in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services at The Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville.

Guest speakers included: Margaret O’Bryon, President and CEO, Consumer Health Foundation; Brian D. Smedley, Vice President and Director, Health Policy Institute, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; and Betina Jean-Louis, Director of Evaluation, Harlem Children’s Zone. They addressed specific social determinants and ways to improve community health through multi-sector collaboration and community engagement.

Professionals left the conference with a better understanding of how to build cooperative relationships to promote local health equity and improve community conditions.

In an effort to eliminate language barriers, Adventist HealthCare’s Center on Health Disparities has trained bilingual staff in proper medical interpretation to ensure patients with limited English-language proficiency fully understand health-care information and procedures.

"Our community is blessed with an extraordinary group of health-care professionals and community leaders who understand that in order for this region to be a leader in fighting health disparities, we must ensure all barriers to health care are removed," Pesquera said.

Moving forward, the Center on Health Disparities plans to continue educating Adventist HealthCare’s employees and community partners in culturally competent care, to ensure patient and family-centered care that benefits all racial and ethnic populations in the area.

“In 2005, Adventist HealthCare set out to make a difference by addressing health disparities at the local level,” says William G. “Bill” Robertson, President and CEO of Adventist HealthCare. “Over the years we have been blessed to work with many partners across the state who understand the challenges our communities face and want to help us expand access to care for those who need it most.”

Adventist HealthCare’s Center on Health Disparities was started in 2007 to provide quality care to everyone by bridging the health-care access gap in our communities. The Center is a recognized expert in addressing health-care disparities and building health-care equity. Among its partners are the Brookings Institution, Johns Hopkins Priority Partners, US Department of Health & Human Services, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, University of Maryland, School of Public Health, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties Departments of Health and Human Services and Montgomery Cares Clinics.

Adventist HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery organization based in Rockville, Maryland, is one of the largest employers in the state of Maryland. Adventist HealthCare’s mission is to demonstrate God’s care by improving the health of people and communities through a ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing. Adventist HealthCare includes Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Washington Adventist Hospital, Adventist Behavioral Health Services, Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland, Adventist Senior Living Services, Hackettstown Regional Medical Center, Adventist Home Health Services, the Reginald S. Lourie Center for Infants and Young Children, and LifeWork Strategies.

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