Learning from the community about barriers to health care.
One of the major challenges facing obstetrician-gynecologists, especially those serving populations that are diverse in culture and circumstances, is to identify and address the barriers that keep women from seeking timely preventive and prenatal health care. The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Rochester General Hospital held a community focus groups to learn more about women's attitudes toward health care. In addition to economic issues, such as lack of insurance and an inability to pay, the organizers found that many of the factors that prevent or discourage women from seeking health care involve issues of communication and understanding. Many women wanted what they perceived to be additional services. In reality, many of the things desired involved changes in doctor-patient interactions rather than the addition of any new service, and could be addressed with relative ease and minimal cost. Providing staff members with training in cultural sensitivity and encouraging them to develop a real awareness of patient circumstances are first steps that can lead to better communication between provider and patient and to the development of mutual trust. Other factors, such as the fear of incarceration or of losing one's children if health care is sought, present more serious challenges. Providers of care to high-risk, impoverished populations need to develop strong links to mental health, substance abuse, and family preservation services that allow them to intervene with troubled women and their families with services that are alternatives to incarceration and punitive actions.
Leppert, PC; Partner, SF; Thompson, A
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