Improving Health in Diverse Communities

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
May 7, 2015

As a Chicago-based network of federally qualified health centers, diversity is all around us. We see it in our communities, our patients, our physicians and our employees. We proudly embrace cultural differences and work to ensure that our communities' cultures are represented at our health centers. I asked Tariq Butt, M.D., ACCESS' Vice President of Health Affairs, to discuss how ACCESS approaches cultural differences. Here is what he had to say:

Q: Tell me about how ACCESS approaches cultural differences.

A: We respect the various cultural backgrounds of our patients and continually work with them to provide services that help them better understand how to improve their overall health. It is important that our workforce reflects the cultural and ethnic needs of the diverse communities we serve. This gives us a better understanding of different populations, which, in turn, prepares us to meet patients where they are while addressing their health care concerns.

Q: How does ACCESS deal with language barriers?

A: We have translators on site at many of our health centers, and if we have a specific need, we can access other language interpreters immediately. We also have a diverse workforce that speaks 26 languages.

Q: How do cultural differences influence community health care practices?

A: We find that there are many health disparities among persons of different cultures. Each culture provides a unique set of health care challenges. Knowing this allows our clinicians to tailor our delivery of care model accordingly.

For example, we see high levels of diabetes and heart disease in the Pan Asian population, and Pan Asians typically do not seek health care until they are already sick. When dealing with this population, we are committed to educating them about preventing illnesses and the importance of annual doctors' visits. 

Q: Why do certain health problems persist among some cultural groups?

​A: For many of our patients, the persistent health problems that they face are rooted in their cultural beliefs and affect how they access health care.