County expands outreach to minority residents
The Anne Arundel County (Md.) Department of Health has established an Office of Minority Health. The first of its kind in the state, the office works within the department’s Health Information and Promotion Division to join with community groups to create multi-lingual health education materials and to make county services more accessible to minorities.
The idea for the office came from the county’s Conquer Cancer Advisory Council, a group of residents and community leaders who were appointed by the Health Department to decide how the county should spend money received from the state’s Cigarette Restitution Fund Program (CRFP). The CRFP, which distributes money from the national tobacco settlement to increase cancer awareness and prevent tobacco use among residents — particularly minorities — directs local governments to decide the best ways to address those needs in their communities.
To help meet the CRFP goals, the council created the Office of Minority Health in May 2001. The council directed the office to gather information from the community about minority health needs, to increase the number of minorities who choose careers in health care and to provide cultural competency training to health providers.
As one of its first tasks, the office organized a one-day conference to inform residents about the types of health services available from the county and to identify barriers minorities face in accessing those services. About 150 people attended the conference to hear presentations from health care providers and to participate in discussions about how the county could improve its health services.
As a result of the conference, the office appointed three full-time staff members to act as liaisons with the largest minority groups in the county — African American, Hispanic American and Korean American. The staff members work with physicians and experts in the Health Information and Promotion Division to create culturally accurate health education materials in Spanish and Korean.
Liaisons meet with leaders and organizations in each minority community to disseminate information and to create programs that address their special needs. For example, the liaison to African American residents helped a local organization conduct 18 colorectal cancer presentations at churches and other organizations early this year, reaching nearly 2,000 people. The office supported the presenting organization with a grant from its $500,000 annual budget.
This year, the office also provided a grant to a Korean American organization to help it establish a facility for providing health care information to its members. “We had to work very closely with the organization to translate our forms and to create new forms that were focused on that culture,” says Felisa McCall, minority health coordinator. “They have held colorectal cancer presentations, and many of the Korean Americans that they were able to reach had never received information about it or been to a doctor to have a screening.”
Besides educating residents, the office is attempting to increase the number of minorities in health care professions. This year the office provided a $25,000 grant to the Anne Arundel Community College School of Applied Health to award scholarships to minority students.
Next year, the office plans to provide cultural competency training to health providers in the county. The office will coordinate presentations on incorporating minority groups’ particular values, beliefs and traditions into health care.