The Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency’s Public Health Branch has identified several cultural and community barriers to equitable health care in Tulare County through focus groups, conducted in partnership with the Public Health Institute (PHI) and targeting key regions and populations of interest. Collaborative partnerships are being formed to address the findings.
The focus groups were designed to gather information from community members regarding barriers to equitable health and other key issues identified in the Tulare County Public Health Branch Strategic Plan 2017–2022. Results from the focus groups were compiled and published in the Tulare County Focus Group Final Report in March. To address the findings, the Public Health Branch, along with community leaders, have plans to develop culturally appropriate educational campaigns to increase organizational capacity and address health equity.
“We appreciate every community member who shared deeply personal information with us for these focus groups,” noted Karen Elliott, Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency’s Public Health Director. “Without their willingness to share honestly and openly about their personal health experiences, and the experiences of their respective communities, we would not be able to continue to work to eliminate the barriers they encounter and increase health through appropriate and evidence-based community policies and programs.”
The health issues engaged by the focus groups were prenatal care, chronic disease prevention, and smoking. Information about the diverse focus groups and obstacles to receiving adequate health care among those groups were identified as:
- African Americans had higher death rates from diabetes, low birth weight babies, and cancer diagnosis, and death rate was higher than other ethnic groups
- Native Americans had a lower rate of accessing prenatal care at early stages of pregnancy
- Poor eating habits and lack of physical exercise are a barrier to preventing and managing diabetes
- Not knowing about the pregnancy, inability to access health insurance, fear or shame, and drug or alcohol addiction are barriers to receiving prenatal care
- Inconvenience of cancer screening (i.e., hours of operation, wait times) and trusting doctors, particularly in the Native American group, are barriers to receiving screenings
- Other barriers cited include transportation to medical appointments, access to prescription medications, and access to healthy foods
Recommendations from the study focus on the need for:
- Culturally centered education
- Providers may gain trust through cultural competency
- The need to widely share where to go for screenings and medical treatment
- Partnerships with cultural centers
- The necessity of widespread affiliations and linkages
- Sharing findings with other local organizations so they can incorporate recommendations into their work
The full focus group report can be found at: www.tchhsa.org/tcphfg.