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“Be the Change We Seek: Health Equity for Everyone.”

“Be the Change We Seek: Health Equity for Everyone,” was this year’s theme at the Connecticut Multicultural Health Partnership Annual Meeting, which took place in Westbrook, Connecticut on June 27, 2012. Here’s a glimpse of what happened at the meeting:

Before the breakout sessions took place, executive committee members provided a brief overview of the history and direction of “The Partnership.” Updates were also provided by each of committees; more information about the committees can be found here.

The morning breakout sessions included: (1) Language Services (2) Work Force Development and (3) Addressing the Needs of Veterans Returning from War.

I attended the Language Services workshop where I learned valuable information from the two presenters, Angela Frentress and Maureen Rosselli; both Interpreter Managers at Yale New Haven Hospital. They presented on common misconceptions of medical interpreters as well as the importance of them. As of right now, there are 27 interpreters in house speaking languages ranging from Spanish to Arabic to American Sign Language at Yale-New Haven Hospital. But there is always a constant demand for more interpreters.

Medical interpreters play an integral role in healthcare delivery; and require rigorous training.  They not only require specific skills, but also need to have cultural knowledge of each patient. With understanding, medical interpreters can gain trust from their clients and prevent medical mistakes. “They are not just parrots, that just repeat what’s being said,” joked Angela.

The afternoon session I attended also included a discussion on health literacy and focused more on the communications between the patient and provider. This session was presented by Stacey Brown and Rasy Mar from the University of Connecticut Community Education Program. They addressed several crucial factors as to why effective communication is compromised between patients and providers. The challenge includes:

  •  linguistic barriers
  •  cultural misunderstandings
  •  non-verbal (e.g. due to stroke or trauma)
  •  hearing loss
  •  dysarthria
  • low health literacy

Essentially, all of these factors will lead patients to be less willing to use medical care and less likely to return for follow-up visits. But as providers, what can we do to prevent patients from avoiding the healthcare systems? The presenters introduced the L.E.A.R.N Model – Listen, Explain, Acknowledge, Recommend, and Negotiate. They emphasized that providers need to be cautious of stereotyping and become familiar with cultural values of clients and patients. And as patients, we must be as informed as we can. It’s vital to make a list, pay attention to symptoms, and organize and take time to think about your medical history. But most importantly, patients must speak up! Better healthcare quality can only come when we fix the problems of communication between patients and providers.

What did you learn from the sessions you’ve attended?

Elizabeth Zyzo is a HJCT program intern and Junior at the University of Connecticut.

Health Justice CT provides a public forum for conversations, ideas and collective action. The opinion expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of HealthJusticeCT or our funder.

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