|Addressing Healthcare Disparities|
All communities are unique, but those of us lucky enough
to live in the Pacific islands have a unique understanding of just how diverse
our communities truly are. Healthcare
leaders need to be cognizant of the mix of ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic
statuses, and access to healthcare barriers in communities in order to provide
the best care to our families, friends, and neighbors.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically magnified disparities
in access to healthcare. In March of
this year, New Jersey pediatric surgeon Dr. Ala Stanford realized that many
people in her community were being turned away from COVID testing sites due to
reasons beyond their control (Feldman, 2020).
Community leaders with the best intentions set up convenient drive-thru
testing sites, but did not take into consideration that many people did not own
vehicles. Those attempting to walk-in were turned away. Dr. Stanford took matters into her own hands
and created a mobile clinic that traveled to those in need of testing who did
not have access to testing sites due to lack of private transportation,
doctor’s referrals, or health insurance.
Here in Hawai’i, some in the Pacific Islander community
have been subject to implicit bias and, in turn, lost trust in the government's
plan to contain the virus (Burgos, 2020).
Without a translator, those who tested positive for COVID were told they
needed to isolate in a hotel for two weeks, but they did not understand the
details of how the quarantine was to take place. Many were left scared and alone without
anyone who could answer their questions or provide them with moral support
during an extremely difficult time.
The pandemic has brought major health issues front and
center, and we have the opportunity to address underlying issues that perhaps
have been placed on the backburner for far too long. Simply thinking about certain programs from a
different perspective can help us find ways to increase their efficacy. As such, translators are now working the
hotlines, mobile clinics have been dispatched, and government officials are
working with community leaders to ensure that everyone is provided with
up-to-date guidance. COVID is forcing
everyone to think outside of the box. With increased collaboration across
sectors, we will not only survive this pandemic - we may, in fact, find better ways
to close the gap in healthcare disparities along the way.
(2020). 'Black Doctors Work to Make
Coronavirus Testing More Equitable,' KHN 13
Burgos, A. (2020).
'Pacific Islander communities grapple with high COVID-10 infection rates and
issues with language barriers,' KITV4