Addressing Health Disparities in Healthcare: A Multi-Faceted Approach

Posted on: July 25, 2023Florida
  1. Pictured is Madison and Ashley conducting a fitness class
  2. Patient attending the Food Pharmacy

Hi! My name is Madison and I’m a Patient Navigator at UF Health’s Urban Health Alliance. I serve in three main capacities at my host site: Social Services Hub, Food Pharmacy, and Community Education and Outreach. 

With the social services hub, my service includes meeting with patients from our clinic and identifying their needs, empowering them to access resources in their community that may help address those needs and, in doing so, helping bridge gaps in healthcare. I focus on my patients’ needs and empower them to access resources that may be unfairly restricted due to certain health disparities. As I serve in this role, I have grown to develop a deeper understanding of systemic health disparities so that I can learn how to best advocate for patients who are struggling with overcoming such barriers as transportation, health education, and literacy. As I further my experience in this role, my goal is to help patients gain access to the care that they deserve, and the care that I am committed to providing as a future physician.  

Another facet of my role in the Social Services Hub is being a fitness instructor. I help implement an exercise program for the patients I currently serve at UF Health. In this weekly exercise program, I lead my patients through adaptive exercises and utilize a patient-centric approach to promote mobility and healthy mindsets in patients that present with chronic disease and limited range of motion.

In the Food Pharmacy, one of my responsibilities is working with patients who are diagnosed with chronic diseases and are referred for dietary assistance. I recently assisted a patient who was referred by his primary care provider for nutritional management of diabetes and hypertension. As I assisted him with his grocery shopping, he disclosed to me that fresh vegetables had not been part of his usual diet because he couldn’t afford to buy them. Although he was grateful to receive help, I noticed he seemed intimidated by not knowing how to prepare them. I offered to share some basic ideas for different ways to cook them, which he happily accepted. When he came back for his follow-up, his blood pressure, weight, and blood glucose had already decreased, which confirmed his compliance with his new dietary regimen. With this dietary change, he was able to see the effect his diet had on his overall health and appeared more amenable to making healthier lifestyle choices. Taking cues from this, I invited him to participate in the adaptive fitness class I lead once per week, for which he has shown up two weeks in a row. From this experience, I learned the importance of empowering patients to pursue lifestyle changes to improve the whole person's health and well-being.

One of my other main roles in the Food Pharmacy involves providing educational cooking classes for patients who are diagnosed with chronic diabetes and/or hypertension. These classes are fun and interactive and serve to provide patients with healthy (yet still delicious) meal options to aid in bettering their overall health and well-being.

To conclude, my role as Patient Navigator has provided me with a unique opportunity to get involved with my community in a way that allows me to creatively act on ways to improve health disparities in health care. There is a lot of need in these communities, and the first step is being receptive to community members who firsthand experience these hardships who have suggestions on how to help eliminate these disparities, and then acting on those suggestions and needs. From social service referrals to exercise classes to nutritional cooking classes, this fulfilling experience has helped me gain a more appreciative and nuanced lens into public health and its perplexities. I will go on to pursue a career in medicine with this new perspective and continue to act on addressing the many disparities this community and others like it continue to face, with the hopes of improving my future patients’ overall health and well-being.



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