Patient education is a critical component of modern healthcare practice in order to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. However, many populations currently lack access to a variety of tools which are necessary to promote wellness and to participate in critical preventative services. The underserved encompasses individuals from a variety of cultural groups with different barriers in accessing healthcare services; therefore, a set of tools must be established to better accommodate these groups and improve their access to preventative and other wellness services. Barriers such as language difficulties and trust concerns must be overcome to improve services to the underserved in many communities.
Preventative screenings for the underserved are often challenging due to cultural differences, lack of insurance, and general lack of knowledge regarding these services. Therefore, when these screenings are not conducted, patients may be at a greater risk for chronic illness and disease. There are a number of screening mechanisms that should be incorporated into the wellness routine for all patients, including the underserved, and include screenings for blood pressure, diabetes, many cancers, dental disease, and depression, amongst others (Centers for Disease Control). Due to cultural and language barriers, clinicians who are fluent in languages other than English should be available to introduce these screenings to underserved patients and to explain their significance and value to their lives. These efforts will encourage patients in these population groups to trust in the knowledge of their care providers and to obtain these screenings as they are available.
One measure to consider that has had past success is the health coach or patient navigator, an individual who works with patients to emphasize the importance of wellness and prevention screenings to improve health outcomes (Conaboy). These individuals obtain specific training in community health services to communicate with patients, particularly the underserved, regarding ways to improve health and wellbeing (Conaboy). By engaging with patients in this manner, information would be provided regarding these screenings, how to obtain them cost effectively, and even obtaining transportation if necessary (Conaboy). This type of approach is important because it enables the underserved to better understand why screenings are necessary and how to obtain them without difficulty (Conaboy).
Finally, the development of different tools to accommodate screening requirements for the underserved should be conducted in a manner that is not overwhelming for these patients, particularly if they have language or cultural barriers. If too much information is provided and it is not expressed clearly and concisely, patients may become easily confused and frustrated and will not wish to obtain these screenings as needed. It is recommended that patients adhere to guidelines established by many healthcare providers and agencies in order to promote preventative measures and wellbeing as best as possible. These efforts will also demonstrate the capacity to expand knowledge regarding health issues for the underserved and to improve access to these services in communities where accessibility is poor. The following diagram represents some of the most common preventative screenings that are recommended throughout the life span, including gender, age, and possible risk factors associated with these screenings.
Conaboy, Chelsea. Connecting Underserved Patients to Preventative Care. Boston.com. Web.11 February 2013.
Selected Preventative Screening Recommendations. Centers for Disease Control. Web. 11 February 2013.
From Selected Preventative Screening Recommendations. Centers for Disease Control. Web. 11 February 2013.