Investing in improved health access and outcomes in RI through cultural awareness and education

Cultural awareness and respect are key to improving health equity, as they encourage use of culturally aware solutions and discourage biases that may deter patients from seeking care. In Rhode Island, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan is engaging at the community level to build cultural awareness of underserved populations, as illustrated by recent outreach to and engagement with individuals of African descent.

9.1% of Rhode Island’s population consists of Black individuals and individuals of African descent.1 This includes African American citizens as well as documented and undocumented immigrants of African descent. African immigrants are the fastest growing immigrant population in the U.S.2 With 25% of all lawfully present immigrants in the U.S. and 46% of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. under the age of 65 being uninsured, increased probability of negative health outcomes is a concern for this population.3 According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, uninsured individuals are more likely to be diagnosed in the late stages of diseases than those who are insured.4 They receive fewer diagnostic services and have higher mortality rates.

African immigrants may experience barriers to positive health outcomes and health care access including language fluency, limited knowledge of the US health care system and access to transportation.5 According to the World Health Organization, “…the experience of migration and displacement is a key factor in a person’s health and wellbeing…Evidence shows that a significant number of migrant workers are at greater risk of…work-related health problems exacerbated by their limited access to health services.”6 Individuals of African descent (including immigrants and American citizens) face barriers to positive health outcomes including increased rates of food insecurity, poverty and discrimination while seeking care.7

With the intent of improving health outcomes among individuals of African descent, UnitedHealthcare has deepened its connections with this community through support of cultural events. This summer, UnitedHealthcare representatives attended the Sankofa World Farmers Market, World Refugee Day and the African Summer Bash. Representatives provided attendees with health education, Medicaid renewal assistance and information regarding the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan and Dual Plan.

UnitedHealthcare’s support in this area precedes a proposal from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued in April that aims to improve patient safety and health equity policies.8 More specifically, CMS aims to improve health equity by incentivizing hospitals to care for higher proportions of underserved individuals.

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Rhode Island is aligned with CMS’s prioritization of equitable health care access and is committed to community engagement and support of underserved populations to build healthier communities for everyone.

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