By Dr. Sonja Maddox, Pacific Medical Centers, Health Equity Advisor Clinical Lead
Health equity means ensuring that every person has the opportunity to achieve the best health. Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) understands that health disparities are preventable, and we recognize that these disparities exist due to systemic racism. PacMed acknowledges that until the inequalities to accessing health care are addressed, we will not see a long-term positive impact in our society.
To address health inequalities in a meaningful way, in 2020, PacMed created a Health Equity Council. The goal is to reduce barriers to care for our patients and seek opportunities to enhance health equity for our patients as well as our caregivers. With the creation of the Health Equity Council, PacMed rolled out the Health Equity Team. The Health Equity Team consists of two community health workers, a supervisor of social work and a clinical pharmacist who works closely with our primary care providers. The Health Equity Team identifies health disparities in our patient population, strategizes solutions and conducts outreach to help bring health to all. As PacMed’s mission is to provide our patients with simply the right care, we are increasing outreach to improve the health of our patients.
We have three health care initiatives that the Health Equity Team is addressing; one is focused on blood pressure control for the African American population. We are reaching out to patients that have identified as being African American or Black and who have a history of high blood pressure (hypertension). Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm HG. Blood pressure control is important to reduce a person’s risk of stroke or heart attack over their lifetime. Our goal with the hypertension initiative is to learn more about the specific barriers that prevent our patients from controlling their blood pressure, and then to provide education and resources that will help them improve their health.
PacMed’s other two health care initiatives are focused on colorectal cancer screening among the Latinx and the African American population. We are reaching out to patients who have identified as Latinx or African American/Black, who have not had an opportunity for colon cancer screening. Both African American and Latinx communities have lower colon cancer screening rates, leading to worse health outcomes. Colorectal cancer is the second-most dangerous cancer in the Latinx American. Among African Americans, colorectal cancer occurs more frequently, is more deadly, and is diagnosed at a higher rate before age 50. Regular screening for colon cancer saves lives.
PacMed knows that there are disparities between the care that diverse communities receive. We believe our health equity initiatives will help identify local barriers and close the gap for our patients. Ultimately, the learning from our efforts will lead us to providing better care, not only for select groups, but for all PacMed patients.
PacMed has nine convenient locations that are staffed by a comprehensive network of more than 168 primary and specialty care professionals, who are committed to providing the highest-quality medical care and to developing a compassionate, long-term relationship with our patients.