Minority Health and Health Disparities - Mayo Center for Innovation Healthcare Design

The Creative Solutions That Can Transform Minority Health

Post Written By Haley Pysick

In an age where healthcare delivery is progressing to serve the needs of more patients, underserved groups of people continue to face overwhelming health disparities. The term “underserved” includes a broad array of people such as the economically disadvantaged, mentally and physically disabled, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, low-income children, the homeless, and those living in rural areas. Due to the unique circumstances surrounding each of these groups, obtaining consistent healthcare is not always a feasible or realistic option. Often, elements such as financial, geographic, and educational disparities will heighten the susceptibility of healthcare gaps. Luckily, healthcare providers are realizing that more effort and creativity are needed to reach out to underserved people. At Transform 2015, a considerable amount of speakers presented innovative ways in which they, or their organizations, have increased healthcare outreach to underserved groups. Two speakers who particularly caught my attention included Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and Dr. America Bracho:

1 >> Nadine Burke Harris, M.D.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has dedicated her life to helping children plagued by poverty. She is the founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness and is an expert advisor on the Too Small to Fail initiative. Fresh out of residency, Dr. Burke Harris zeroed in on a connection between childhood acute stress and health disparities. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study was published in 1998 and showed strong evidence of an association between ACE scores and certain acute health diseases. The higher the ACE score, the higher the chance of developing serious health issues. When compared to the general population, people with ACE scores above four (meaning the people suffered four or more adverse childhood experiences) had a 1,220% increase in suicidality, 220% increase in ischemic heart disease, and a 420% increase in Alzheimer’s. It has been scientifically shown that constant exposure to traumatic experiences directly impacts brain development in children, and subsequently effects those children for the rest of their lives. To compact these harrowing statistics, Dr. Burke Harris established the Center for Youth Wellness. A major accomplishment the center has achieved is developing an efficient screening process for adverse childhood experiences that can be done during well-child check-ups. Children deemed at-risk for adversity are treated through home-visiting, wellness nursing, mental health treatments and sometimes medication. Through her passion and persistence, Dr. Burke Harris is leading the charge on advancing the research, diagnoses, and advocacy of adverse childhood experiences.

2 >> America Bracho, M.D.

Dr. America Bracho’s primary focus is reaching out to the Latino community to educate, train, and empower Latino people on health issues. She is currently the Executive Director of Latino Health Access, a facility in Santa Ana, California that centers around health promotion and disease prevention. Throughout her clinical experience in her native country of Venezuela, Dr. Bracho noticed how “promotoras” (Spanish for “community health workers”) had built close relationships with patients in the clinic. The mutual trust and respect built between the promotoras and community members helped engage more people on maintaining healthy lifestyles. After coming to the United States, Dr. Bacho wanted to apply this same concept of creating a strong community health support in an area of Orange County. To carry out this venture, she helped start the Latino Health Access center in Santa Ana, California. One of the first projects focused on helping patients with diabetes. Many of the patients with diabetes had struggled with poverty, and could not maintain consistent health plans. Upon helping the patients with diabetes open up about the struggles of their daily lives, and finding better plans that worked for them, Dr. Bracho recruited some of the more determined patients from the program and hired them as promotoras. Many of these promotoras (most of whom experienced other types of adversity) went on to start new programs to help others in the community. These programs ranged from shelters for domestic violence victims to support groups for children with mental disabilities. As more people went through the programs, more people wanted to get involved as promotoras and begin their own initiatives. This created a domino effect which ultimately affected the entire community. Through Dr. Branch’s initiatives, more Latinos are able to find relief of health disparities through trusted neighborhood support systems, and are able to more easily access healthcare and wellness support.