Monday, September 22, 2008

Health Care Navigation

Health care. If you cannot access it, it does you no good. This is one of the driving principles of overall health care reform. It has been a frequent theme that millions of people lack this access due to lack of health care coverage. It has also been consistently touched upon that people in rural areas experience a lack of access due to lack of proximity to health care facilities. These are not the aspects of health care access that I will be covering today.

Instead, I would like to draw your attention to the disparity in access experienced by ethnic minorities. Lisa Risetta at The Salt Lake Tribune reports on a new way to help equalize this imbalance:

[Harold] Freeman conceived the patient navigator - a new kind of health care worker who would steer patients through the complexities of the health care system.

Today, Freeman's navigators are seen as one solution to America's well-documented racial and ethnic disparities in medicine. Federal health officials are spending $75 million to test patient-navigator pilot programs around the country, including one that spans Utah and Montana and aims to help American Indians.

American Indians and Alaska Natives, both men and women, continue to have the country's poorest five-year survival rates for most kinds of cancers.
Poverty is one factor here; understanding is another. In the Byzantine processes of the contemporary system, those who speak English as a native language are often confused. Those for whom it is a second language can find it impenetrable. It does no good to see a doctor and be unable to understand or implement his instructions. Navigators help to ease the confusion and encourage participation in the system, improving the overall outcome for many.

SOURCE: "Navigators help minority patients overcome barriers in medicine" 09/19/08
photo courtesy of girl_named_fred, used under its Creative Commons license

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