Preventive Health Services for Diverse Seniors – Part 1
This is the first of a series of posts covering the Preventive Health Services for Diverse Seniors Checklist, which is my list of five fundamental activities that will help any diverse older adult maintain the best possible health while aging. You may ask what besides my passion for talent management and equity and inclusion qualifies me to write about preventive health. Please allow me to explain.
Why Preventive Health?
If you’ve been following the Health Inclusion Blog, you know that I grew up in a healthcare household, as the daughter of a pediatrician. My father with two other physicians, formed the first minority medical group practice in the state Ohio, serving the greater Cleveland community over 50 years, caring for families across multiple generations. I view my work today as carrying on the family business in my area of expertise and ‘calling.’ My educational and occupational focus took me in the direction of talent and organizational development. I enjoy using knowledge and skills ‘to help those who help others.’ That’s why two years ago I was motivated to learn more about preventive health and wellness from one of the best authorities; Mayo Clinic.
Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach Training Program
In 2018 I travelled to the Mayo Clinic campus in Rochester, MN for the onsite portion of The Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach Training and Certification Program, an all-inclusive training led by an array of Mayo Clinic experts. The faculty brought a wide-spectrum of experiences in coaching, patient-care, research, worksite wellness and behavior change in the areas of weight management, stress reduction, tobacco cessation, work-life balance and chronic disease self-management.
The onsite workshop was a four-day interactive training experience including an immersive wellness experience at the state-of-the-art Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. In addition, the live distance component including scheduled webinars and conference calls as well as skill development with peer coaching practice and mentored coaching skills are included. Following successful training completion, I earned Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach Certification, an accomplishment I’m proud of.
THE GREAT DIVIDE – Racial Health Disparities
Racial health disparities already existed in America— the coronavirus just exacerbated them. As of September 2020, the mortality rate for African Americans who have contracted COVID-19 is 2.4 times as high as the mortality rate for whites and 2.2 times as high as the rate for Latinos and Asians. Put another way, African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population in all areas of the country releasing COVID-19 mortality data, but they have suffered 25 percent of all deaths.
Risk for Severe Illness Increases with Age
According to the CDC, As you get older, your risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases. For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older. There are also other factors that can increase your risk for severe illness, such as having pre-existing medical conditions. By understanding the factors that put you at an increased risk, you can make decisions about what kind of precautions to take in your daily life.
Diverse Seniors Pre-existing Health Conditions
As a group, the African-American or Black Seniors population experiences significant disparities with chronic conditions, access to care, preventive screenings, and mental health. The following is a sampling of some of the health disparities that exist for the African-American or Black Seniors population in comparison to the White Seniors population:
· 80 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
· 2.4 times more likely to begin treatment for end-stage renal disease.
· 1.7 times more likely to be hospitalized.
· 20 percent more likely to have visual impairments.
Heart Disease and Stroke
· Men are 30 percent and women 60 percent more likely to have high blood pressure.
· Less likely to keep their blood pressure under control.
· Men have twice the risk of first time stroke.
· 48 percent of adults are obese.
· Women are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer.
· Men are 1.3 times more likely to have new cases of colorectal cancer.
· 20 percent more likely to report psychological distress.
· 50 percent less likely to receive counseling or mental health treatment.
Both the CDC and U.S. Health and Hunan Services (HHS) describe the underlying causes of these health disparities as being linked to genetics, lack of economic resources, limited access to health care, delay in treatment, cultural beliefs, low literacy and health literacy rates, and certain environmental factors.
How Value-Based Care Can Fix Racial Health Disparities of Seniors
Dr. Christopher Chen is the CEO of ChenMed, a physician practice that aims to bring concierge-style medicine and better health outcomes to the neediest populations – low-income seniors managing multiple complex chronic conditions. Dr. Chen oversees ChenMed’s operations through its senior medical centers throughout the United States, as well as its portfolio affiliated primary care practices and groups. In his April 13, 2020 ChenMed post Solving for the Racial Disparities Crisis in Coronavirus DeathsDr. Chenshares his thoughts about our ChenMed senior patients across eight states. A majority of them are African American and most come from challenging socio-economic circumstances. Dr. Chen outlines the short and long term strategies based on serving this population for decades, and applying what we’ve learned from being focused on these communities and neighborhoods:
· Short-Term: Engage in proactive outreach by remaining in frrequent (mostly virtual) contact with them — in fact, more frequent contact during these stressful times. Meet Winfield! He’s been a patient with ChenMed since 2014. He has an incredible story to share of how his health improved because of his Primary Care doctor, Dr. Palamino, and the care team at JenCare Senior Medical Center. He’s seen results he had never seen before.
· Long-Term: Build trust with intention, as physicians, to build that level of trust with our most vulnerable patients and their families. It takes time, and it also means paying special attention to patients who are older, sicker, and more disenfranchised. Claudia has been a patient of ChenMed’s for about 7 years and she describes how Chen Senior Medical Center has been able to provide her with excellent primary care doctors that recognize her the moment she steps through the door and quality care programs that improve her longevity.
Preventive Health Services for Diverse Seniors Checklist
I mentioned at the start that this is the first of a series of posts covering my Preventive Health Services for Diverse Seniors Checklist, which is my list of five fundamental activities that will help any diverse older adult maintain the best possible health while aging. The series will include recommendations and resources for lifestyle changes addressing the common preexisting conditions for diverse seniors.
For an early peek at my next post, Preventive Health Services for Diverse Seniors – Part 2 DIABETES, check out the American Diabetes Association’s Living Healthy With Diabetes Guide for Seniors 55 and Up.