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Access to Health

What can we do to improve access to health?

Many agencies and organizations are working to reduce health disparities and improve access to health. Their efforts have helped us learn more about health-related social issues and ways to address them.

Listed below are things we can do—or continue to do—to improve access to health. This list is based on recommendations from the Colorado Health Foundation, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the American Cancer Society. See reports from these organizations

Access to health may be improved through:

Access to Healthcare

group of young volunteers giving each other a high-five

Things we can do to improve access to healthcare are to:

  • Enhance community outreach, health screening, prevention and treatment programs for low-income, minority, and other underserved populations
  • Create educational campaigns to inform communities of available financial assistance, healthcare, and screening services
  • Increase the number and capability of community health centers
  • Support community volunteer, patient navigator and community outreach programs
  • Support policies that increase access to health care, including access to affordable care, insurance, and medication
  • Support training and incentive programs for health care providers (doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, community health workers, etc.) who are interested in working in underserved geographic areas.

Research

Access to health can be improved when we understand issues and programs that help address the current challenges and barriers. Research and program evaluation has helped us learn more about health disparities and the systems, policies, and programs that work to reduce them. It is also important to publish results and let the public health community and healthcare providers know what types of strategies and programs work best.

Community Organization and Policy Change

Social changes are made through community organization and policy change. One Colorado example is the Clean Indoor Air Act which bans smoking in public places. Other state and federal tobacco policies include excise taxes and limit tobacco advertising, availability and ban its sale to minors.

Improving Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Culturally competent healthcare reflects the beliefs, values and communication methods of patients and their families. Cultural competence may include training for healthcare providers, recruitment of a culturally diverse healthcare workforce, and improving the availability of medical translators.

Promoting Health and Wellness

Educational programs that promote healthy eating and physical activity are important. These help people understand their health and ways to prevent disease. Educational programs need to be continued in communities, schools, and online. Several organizations have online tools and resources for different age groups or people with certain medical conditions. Examples include LiveWell Colorado aimed at obesity or Let’s Move aimed at physical activity for kids.

Thinking Points

  • Does everyone in your community have good access to health?  Why or why not?
  • What is your vision of a healthy community?
  • What is your part in that vision?

The list above provides examples of how systems and organizations can improve access to health. Now let’s see what you can do. >>>

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