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Patient Access to Care, SDOH Priorities for Hispanic Communities

Improving patient access to care and addressing the social determinants of health are key goals to boost community health.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Patient access to quality, affordable healthcare is a top healthcare priority for Hispanic community leaders, followed by making investments in numerous community health projects, according to a new survey from the Healthy Americas Institute.

The survey, which was released as a part of the 45th anniversary of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, consulted 110 leaders from community-based health centers located in majority Hispanic communities about their priority areas for creating healthier populations.

Improving patient access to high-quality and low-cost care was resoundingly the highest priority, the survey showed.

“A key insight from the study is that surveyed Hispanic leadership sees access to quality affordable health care as the top priority for elected officials as well as employers and business sector,” said Jane L. Delgado, PhD, MS, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

Additionally, concern for public health issues emerged as key priorities, Delgado added.

READ MORE: How Community Health Workers Support Value-Based Care Principles

“Leadership also expressed strong support for policies that reduce the prevalence of unhealthy foods, particularly for children, and policies that limit youth access to tobacco, particularly e-cigarettes, and that ban smoking in the workplace and multi-unit housing,” Delgado noted.

These efforts come as Hispanic community leaders seek to improve the overall health of their constituents. Only 18 percent of survey respondents said the overall health of their communities was good, very good, or excellent, the survey showed.

Instead, about 80 percent of respondents reported that their community’s health was fair or poor.

In addition to improving patient care access, community leaders plan to address patient healthy by looking at the social determinants of health, or the lifestyle factors that impact a population’s ability to achieve good health.

Food security, for example, was the second most pressing health priority, the survey showed. Seventy-one percent of community health leaders said they were implementing food security programs that would bring healthy food to food banks and improve nutrition education.

READ MORE: How Community Care Coordination Drove Down Avoidable ED Visits

Community health leaders are also turning to more tertiary social health needs, the report revealed. Thirty-five percent of leaders said they are organizing affordable housing efforts and 31 percent said a good economy was important for community health.

Efforts to address the social determinants of health are often complex, but most communities are at least on the right track, the survey authors added. For example, organizations are successfully conducting community health needs assessments (CHNAs).

“The study found that Hispanic community organizations surveyed are conducting formal needs assessments to ensure programs are closely aligned with the priorities of the community residents they serve,” Delgado said.

Additionally, community leaders are acknowledging that addressing community health is a team effort. Seventy-nine percent of community organizers said they have working relationships with government officials to help drive their missions.

“These Hispanic organizations are actively engaging a broad range of partners to meet their mission of health and well-being,” Delgado explained. “It is clear that Hispanic organizations are engaged in policy change and deliver a broad range of civic engagement services to help ensure that all are a part of our national democratic experiment and help to craft the future of their communities and the nation.”

READ MORE: Few Docs Discuss Social Determinants of Health with Patients

Hispanic patients disproportionately experience the social determinants of health and face health disparities, especially as it relates to care access, separate research has revealed.

A 2017 study published in the Annals of Family Medicine revealed that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) improved patient access to payer coverage, primary care, and community health centers, but racial and ethnic care disparities persisted. Hispanics largely accounted for these care disparities.

Non-Hispanic white and black patients both saw improvements in care access and access to Medicaid, while Hispanic patients did not.

Hispanic patients may experience disproportionate uninsured rates because only US citizens or legal residents are eligible for Medicaid offered via expansion. There are approximately 6 million unauthorized Hispanic individuals living in the US who cannot access Medicaid expansion, the study authors pointed out.

Data also showed that Hispanic patients were not as aware of the Medicaid expansion options as white or black patients. Patient navigation tools are not always available in Spanish or other languages, making it difficult for some non-English speaking patients to access healthcare.

These results show that efforts to improve health equity are not over, the survey authors said.

“Our findings suggest equitable access, even in CHCs, depends on equality in health insurance coverage,” the research team concluded. “As the future of the ACA is unknown, it is imperative that we understand its impact to date.”

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