Ten years ago, I was surprised to hear from one of my patients that her local pharmacy couldn’t fill a prescription I had given her to treat her pain. It didn’t stock a common medication used to manage pain, so she had to leave her neighborhood to find a pharmacy in the suburbs to get her prescription filled.
My research team called 190 pharmacies across the state of Michigan. We found that pharmacies in poor and minority neighborhoods were significantly less likely to stock prescription pain medications than the pharmacies in white or economically advantaged neighborhoods. To our surprise we found economically advantaged minorities were less able to get prescriptions filled in their neighborhoods than low income whites.
This is an example of a disparity in health care. The remedy is for doctors and other health care providers to be sensitive to barriers their patients might face and to address these barriers when providing care to make sure all patients are receiving high quality care, regardless of their zip codes. There is more to care than writing a prescription. We may have to help people navigate the health care system in the clinic, hospital and community.
Health care equity and inclusion
Inequities and disparities in health care are driven by racial, ethnic, gender, socio-economic and geographic status and can result in differences in access to care, quality of life, rates of disease, disability and death, and lifespan. Don’t you think it’s time to change that? After all, equity and inclusion are basic human values.
Talk Health Care Equity is a campaign to start a national conversation about equity in health care that has been organized by the UMHS Office for Health Equity and Inclusion. We want to find out what people think about this issue that, after all, affects each of us. But is it the same for you and me? We want to hear about your fears, hopes and frustrations – whatever you want to tell us. We want to hear from you whether you live in Benton Harbor or Copper Harbor, Michigan, whether you live in Harbor City, California or Bar Harbor, Maine.
Let’s start a meaningful conversation that can lead to change
We want to hear from you! The Talk Health Care Equity campaign gives us all a voice and allows us to also hear those whose voices are frequently unheard. You get to say something about health care equity. It’s easy. We’re asking people to share their thoughts in eight words or less by accessing www.healthyconversation.org to fill out an online survey. In addition, at UMHS and in U-M health science schools, there are self-serve boxes where faculty, staff, students, patients, families and visitors can fill out a card, then drop it into the box.
Through these eight-word stories, we can get a better understanding of what both consumers and providers of health services think about health care equity and amplify their voices to affect change where it may be needed in order to promote health for all.
The campaign continues through June 30, 2014. We will be listening!
Take the next step:
• Log-in to www.healthyconversation.org to submit your eight-word story.
• Endorse this cause. Start your own conversations through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine using #talkhealthequity.
• Like us on Facebook at Office for Health Equity and Inclusion and follow us on Twitter @UM_OHEI.
• Connect with friends, family, and co-workers and host an equity and inclusion conversation.
• Complete a campaign card. Cards are distributed throughout UMHS and U-M health science schools and clinics.
Carmen R. Green, M.D., is the associate vice president and associate dean for Health Equity and Inclusion at UMHS. Green, professor of anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, and health management and policy at the U-M Medical School and U-M School of Public Health. She is also co-director for the Community Liaison Core and director of the Healthier Black Elders Center for the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research at the Institute for Social Research (a joint collaboration between U-M and Wayne State University). Dr. Green has a long-standing interest in health policy and health equity, particularly in the area of disparities in pain care access, assessment and management among minorities, women, elderly people and those who are socio-economically disadvantaged. Her research has uncovered inequities in pain access, assessment and care, and variability in decision making based on age, race, ethnicity, gender, class and other socio-demographic factors across the lifespan.
For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.