UF researchers seek solutions to health disparities

Research from the University of Florida indicates doctors know a majority of black women are obese, but nearly half of Jacksonville doctors rarely discuss weight with their patients and the health benefits of losing it.

They shared their findings during a seminar at St. Paul AME Church on Thursday afternoon.

Researchers from UF Health Gainesville and UF Health Jacksonville wanted to know how to engage black adults with health care providers after the pandemic.

The two-hour discussion presented findings on predictors of health care utilization among older adults in Gainesville and Jacksonville; factors that influence health care and telehealth use by black adults, the effect of perceived racism on older black adults, and the effect of culturally appropriate health care.

In this latest study, Carolyn M. Tucker, UF Florida Blue Chair in Health Disparities Research in the Department of Psychology, found that culturally appropriate health care produced a reduction weight in patients and fostered trust with physicians.

“I hope that when we start sharing this data with healthcare providers and healthcare administrators, we will see a shift in how doctors are trained and how to interact with patients of color. and to empower these patients to play an active role. of the process,” Tucker said.

Tucker has studied health disparities for nearly 40 years. She noted that even though doctors say they are not racist towards black people, what the patient perceives as racist behavior is a determining factor in seeking health care.

“We can make a big change if we can provide training to doctors who engage in these behaviors. …but it has to start at the top, because doctors need time to really talk with patients. One of the things about cultural sensitivity is asking myself how am I, how is my family.

“It takes time,” Tucker continued. “Right now doctors have about 15 minutes with a patient. So doctors want to spend more time and provide better care, it’s just not happening. That means hospital administrators and leaders need to hear this data, see the importance of training, and then it’s going to achieve what we want: better health outcomes for everyone.

Kirsten Klein is a PhD student at the University of Florida and has studied factors that can improve the use of telehealth. She said support from family and friends regarding one’s physical health as well as more open communication from healthcare providers can encourage older people to seek out telehealth options.

When the Joint Commission, a nonprofit hospital accrediting organization, revised its standards in January, one of its requirements was that organizations appoint someone to “lead activities aimed at reducing disparities in health care” for patients. It also required organizations to assess a patient’s social needs and provide information about community resources and support services.

Other new standards included producing a written plan to address health disparities as well as collecting and analyzing people who receive care to close gaps.

Carolyn Jones has spent more than two decades as a medical educator. She says there is a need to better educate black residents in the area about their health care options. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Carolyn Jones said her experience as a black woman with a pharmacology degree made the revelation about obesity disconcerting.

“I think the idea of ​​healthcare professionals understanding the needs and cultural differences of African Americans, how we view the healthcare system, how we want to be spoken to, is very important,” Jones said. . “I think that was communicated today and that’s what the research has shown us.”

The seminar ended not only with questions, but also with suggestions. When Jones addressed a panel that included Klein and Tucker, several people in the audience confirmed his comments with polite buzzes and applause.

Tucker said the dialogue will help her and her peers eliminate health disparities and build trust in two communities where it is lacking.

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