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To Fight Racism, Physicians Should Listen to and Learn From Patients: Panel

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Healthcare providers can fight racism by checking their own biases, recognizing injustice within the system, and truly listening to their patients, panelists at a symposium on racism and health literacy agreed this week.

“The language we use about patients and the communities we serve is just as important as the care that we provide for them,” Oluwatomisin Sontan, narrative competency lead at Say Ah!, the New York City non-profit that sponsored the event, told Reuters Health by email. “By attributing health outcomes to poor individual decision making and biological difference, it is easier to ignore policies, socioeconomic factors, and the racism that determines their health status.”

The online series on August 24-26 was held in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the March on Washington.

Say Ah! defines health literacy as “the ability to find and understand basic health and medical information and services so that you can make smart choices about your health.” For Black Americans, knowing to keep your driver’s license in reach could also be considered a health literacy skill, panelist Janet Ohene-Frempong, a plain language and cross-cultural communication consultant, said on the first evening of the symposium.

“It’s the kind of survival skills you need to function on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

Health literacy is intertwined with scientific literacy, cultural literacy and civic literacy, Ohene-Frempong added, and health communication efforts need to include consultation with the intended audience in order to inspire action. “It should be easy to understand, but that is not enough,” she said.

“The message has to come from the community, and it’s not a one-time thing,” concurred Nancy Morisseau of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Sexual and Reproductive Justice Community Engagement Group, who spoke on the second night of the symposium.

“We are facing a crisis of confidence – people don’t know who to trust or believe,” Dr. Robert Fullilove, a professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, said.

And to regain patients’ trust, Dr. Fullilove and other panelists said, healthcare providers need to learn how to listen.

“We need to become students again. As healthcare professionals, we need to remain committed to this position of learning and relearning who our patients are and what they need,” Sontan said.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3lpniyd Say Ah! Racism and Health Literacy Symposium, August 24-26, 2020.

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