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April 11, 2018

How this medical center is using an Asian Health Services program to fight health disparities

Daily Briefing

    Since Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey launched its Korean Medical Program 10 years ago, the program has expanded to serve people of Korean, Chinese, Indian, and other heritages—and its experience offers lessons for other hospitals, Jackie Montalvo writes for NBC News.

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    Asian cultures face distinctive health disparities

    Montalvo writes that Asian Americans, the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, deal with distinct health challenges and disparities. Research from the Center for Asian Health at Temple University, for instance, shows that Asian Americans have the highest mortality rates for liver and stomach cancer, which Montalvo writes are the most preventable cancers.

    To improve health outcomes for Asian Americans, Kyung Hee Choi, a South Korean immigrant, launched the Korean Medical Program at Holy Name a decade ago. The program hired Korean-speaking staff, introduced Korean food to the cafeteria, and persuaded doctors to develop medical screening programs for prevalent diseases in the Korean-American community such as cancer and diabetes.

    "With community hospitals like Holy Name Medical Center, our mission is to serve our community," said Choi. "Our community has changed a lot. It's inevitable that our priority has to be focusing on the fastest growing, and the largest pockets of our population."

    The program has grown rapidly, now serving 45,000 Korean-Americans each year with medical care, educational lectures, and other resources. Holy Name has expanded its approach into a broader Asian Health Services program that serves Chinese, Filipino, Indian, and Japanese cultures.

    The Asian Health Services program also helps members of the Asian community navigate the complexities of the U.S. health care system. It has, for instance, registered around 24,000 people for Medicaid, Montalvo writes.

    What other hospitals can learn from Holy Name's experience

    Michael Maron, the president and CEO of Holy Name, emphasizes that the initiative has succeeded because it's truly part of the hospital's culture. "You can't just hire a few Asians and put them in an office and say, 'I have an Asian health program,'" Maron said. "The entire organization, everybody has to embrace it, and support it, and understand what's going on."

    Toward that end, Holy Name has begun a pilot program that would provide training for every employee in the hospital, including support staff, on how to provide culturally sensitive care.

    A further challenge in launching similar programs is outreach. Ming-der Chang, the senior director of community health initiatives at New York-Presbyterian Queens, said when she began working at her hospital four years ago, it offered similar services to Holy Name—but many in the community didn't know about it.

    James Bae of the University of Chicago, who created an ethnic outreach program with Choi's assistance, addressed that challenge by meeting international patients in community spaces, rather than waiting for patients to seek out the hospital. "We deal with the most complicated care, and without speaking good English, you could not navigate the system," he said.

    And Holy Name has expanded its own efforts to serve Jewish and Hispanic communities. Choi emphasized that there are lessons to be learned across cultural boundaries. "Everybody has a culture," Choi said, "(so) the subgroups will continue, but we're also focused on a broader program" (Montalvo, NBC News, 2/26).

    How to address health inequity in your community

    With the shift in health care to focus on optimizing the health of individuals and communities, health care organizations are creating new strategies to address health care disparities in access and patient outcomes.

    Advisory Board has created the Health Disparities Initiative, which provides actionable resources on a series of strategic imperatives and special topics to achieve equity of care. Interested in seeing research or resources that address your biggest health equity problems?

    Download our resource, "Building Community Partnerships to Reduce Disparities," which includes studies featuring providers who have successfully partnered with community organizations to address health disparities and social determinants of health. You'll also find tools that can guide your organization’s community partnership strategy.

    Download the resource

    Interested in learning more about Optum Advisory Services Inclusion and Health Equity Practice? Click here to e-mail our team and learn how we can help your organization.

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