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Dr. Aponte on Healthcare Disparities at the RAC

Posted Oct. 13, 2012

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, guest speaker Dr. Julio Aponte (Rheumatology), Fairview Hospital, spoke at Kent State University Regional Academic Center in Twinsburg on Wednesday, October 3. Similar to his visit last year at the center, Dr. Aponte's topic "Healthcare Disparities," focused on problems diverse people (including Latinos/as) experience when receiving healthcare. Attendees discussed access to health screening and learned about cultural issues and access to healthy food options.

As a member of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), Dr. Aponte's second visit to the center touched on bullying and how someone may react to avoid a bad situation.  If bullying occurs in a medical setting, an individual may be reluctant to get future medical help if he or she had a bad experience in the past. 

Healthcare providers need to understand that cultural perception of attitudes and foods and physical activity may vary from culture to culture as well as from region to region. It is also important to note, that although helpful, knowing another language is not always critical to understanding other cultures.

The doctor explained that anyone who is perceived as different may be viewed as a threat or not welcomed. This is not only an issue with people's interactions, but also with a willingness (or not) to try new foods. Many low-income communities tend to have a high population of minorities and little or no access to fresh foods. If fresh foods were not introduced early to an individual, a bias toward, or lack of knowledge about, preparation of such foods may hinder proper nourishment.

A way to address this is to take advantage of early exposure to introduce new foods and perceptions about them.  Veronica Walton, Farmers' Marker Manager at the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition, shared how information about healthy eating and access to farmers' markets (provided by her group and other similar groups) is working to educate communities on how to prepare and access fresh food. Information about Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition can be found at www.cccfoodpolicy.org.

Kent State Associate Degree in Nursing student Mary Pelley questioned what may be the best way to get exposed to cultural issues. Dr. Aponte jokingly replied "the internet" and followed with a discussion about the importance of asking the patient and being open to what he or she has to say.

While the doctor was discussing Tropical and Geographical medicine, Kent State Associate Degree in Nursing student Kim Fernandez questioned how someone might know if they have been infected by parasites found in tropical areas. The doctor replied that since some parasites may cause symptoms that are associated with various illnesses, it is up to the medical provider to question the patient if he or she has been to tropical areas that are known to have such parasites. Both students stayed after the event ended to speak with Dr. Aponte and other attendees.

For more information about Kent State University Regional Academic Center in Twinsburg visit www.geauga.kent.edu/twinsburgcenter.