Photo: Ronald Phillips
by Alyssa Castro
On February 2nd, 2013 I attended the African American Women’s Health Forum in Merced. I arrived to the event a bit late but upon entering, the conversation began with talk about the historical root of distrust or skepticism that people, including some members of the African-American community, bring in to the doctors office. Dr Sandra Davis, a retired health care consultant and activist whose career in health care started in 1978, led the conversation as the keynote speaker.
Dr. Davis began her talk with a startling anecdote: In 1986 the Central Valley only had one doctor that accepted women with Medi-Cal. There was a perception that Medi-Cal patients were sicker or more of a hassle to handle as a patient. Around 1995 is when the perception began to shift. More monetary incentives, or funding, were being provided for Medi-Cal and data was gathered showing that families on Medi-Cal weren’t “sicker” than other families. Programs that encouraged mothers to take their children for screenings or check ups were also provided but as a child got older the health care programs encouraging screenings became more limited. Many of the audience members shared anecdotes about neighborhood conditions and having to find transportation to the Hospital. Transportation is essential and without it having to get to a hospital on the opposite side of town (a more “comfortable” side of town) where a resident lives from has proven to be a barrier to accessing Health care. In order to access it an individual needs to be able to get to health clinics and without transportation it will only escalate potential health issues even further. “Build a place where people can get to it.” Says Dr. Sandra.
Another barrier discussed was the quality of care that audience members experienced from staff in the medical field, specifically members who approached a facility with Medi-Cal.
A 47 year old mother with a 10 year old child then began to share how she had visited the same doctor for many years and was always satisfied with her doctors care but over time she had to switch from her private insurance to MediCal. Soon after she said she felt a difference in her interactions with her doctor, nurses became less attentive and she was treated with disrespect.
Dr. Davis explained that when a patient is greeted by an inattentive nurse or talked to with disrespect by a doctor, it can be very off putting and may not guarantee their return and in the end that will only perpetuate their own or their child’s health problems. Dr. Sandra said, “It takes leaders to carefully and kindfully unpack the core of disrespect.” That statement wrapped up the conversation and after we were given a break for lunch. About 45 minute later we returned to a panel of five African-American women, the panel was composed of residents, a Mercy Medical Center worker, an Emergency Medical Tech (EMT), a Physicians Assistant (PA) and other women with different backgrounds in Health care. They offered words of advice, shared their own experiences, listened to audience members stories and provided different insights.
During a break in the forum I got a chance to have a quick sit-down with Dr. Davis and ask her some more in-depth questions about health care:
I walked away from the event with a better understanding of the topic and I was glad to have attended the African American Womens’ Health Forum in Merced.
Continue reading on the next page to check out an exclusive Q&A with Dr. Davis.