The Ozarks, like the nation, will be more racially and ethnically diverse by mid-century, and minorities are expected to become the majority by 2042, according to the U.S. Census.
While this evolution will have sweeping effects, a steering committee of Greene County citizens is being recruited to help health care organizations prepare for that change.
Volunteers are being sought now through December 31 to apply to serve on the Patient-Centered Care Task Force. Those interested in learning more may read a synopsis (PDF) of the duties, and download, print and send a completed application (PDF) by mail to The Library Center, 4653 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, Mo. 65810, Attention: Community Relations Director.
The task force is part of a larger, ongoing project of the University of Missouri Extension to help reduce health disparities in Missouri's urban areas of St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield.
The task force will be asked to help implement eight recommendations approved by the project's Health Care Cultural Competency Steering Committee.
The recommendations focus on developing a health care work force that is, itself, diverse, but also understands and is sensitive to the needs and health disparities of culturally diverse patients. That sensitivity is called "cultural competency."
It describes the ability of individuals or health care systems to provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs and behaviors, including tailoring care to meet the patients' social, cultural and language needs.
According to the steering committee's background report, "Cultural competency skills and the recruitment and retention of minority health care professionals and staff can improve the quality of patient care, enhance employee satisfaction and better position health systems and clinics to meet the emerging challenges including work force shortages."
Officials of the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services say cultural competency is important because "it is one of the main ingredients in closing the disparities gap in health care. It is the way patients and doctors can come together and talk about health concerns without cultural differences hindering the conversation, but enhancing it. Quite simply, health care services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients can help bring about positive health outcomes."
The Health Care Cultural Competency Steering Committee provides these facts in making the case for cultural competency and diversity:
The Missouri Foundation for Health highlights troubling health disparities among minorities in two reports. Among them, it said, Hispanics have less education than the overall population, are less likely to have access to preventive care and are more likely to be without health insurance.
Disparities between blacks and whites in Missouri are widespread and are documented in a wide range of disease and treatment categories. They culminate in this disparity: Life expectancy at birth was 77.7 years for white Missourians in 2006 and only 71.9 for African-Americans.
Read the full "Final Report Health Care Cultural Competency Steering Committee, June 17, 2010" (PDF).