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 Supporting Diversity and Reducing Health Disparities in Community-Based MCH Programs

karla.jpgBy Karla Palmer
Program Coordinator
Healthy Tomorrows Resource Center, American Academy of Pediatrics

We know that low-income and racially and ethnically diverse children and families consistently face disparities accessing high-quality health care, which ultimately affect their health outcomes. We also know that no single action can erase those disparities – but as my organization is finding out, something as simple as implementing strategies from tip sheets can get health care providers moving in the right direction.

The Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children Program (HTPCP), a grant program funded by the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), is committed to supporting service providers that improve the health of vulnerable and underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minorities. Two of HTPCP's key goals are to:

  • support programs that address disparities and inequities (and their underlying causes, including racism and other forms of marginalization) through the development of inclusive, family-centered, and culturally and linguistically competent practice environments, and

  • develop and disseminate new knowledge and innovations in maternal and child health (MCH) practice and policy across HTPCP programs and with key partners to inform and influence MCH policies. 

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The development of our latest strategies to accomplish these goals began last year, when the National Healthy Tomorrows Technical Assistance Resource Center at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which provides technical assistance, resources, and training to HTPCP grantees and prospective applicants, joined forces with Altarum Institute to collect and share information from HTPCP grantees about their efforts to integrate diversity and cultural and linguistic competence, and to reduce health disparities in their projects. 

The Altarum Institute conducted a focus group session with six HTPCP grantees to hear firsthand how they are effectively integrating cultural and linguistic competence into project values, policies, structures and practices, and how they address disparities and inequities through public health and clinical practice. HTPCP and Healthy Tomorrows Resource Center staff reviewed progress reports submitted to MCHB and conducted follow-up calls with selected grantees to gather additional information on their strategies for addressing diverse populations and reducing health disparities.

Among the themes identified during the review process were the need for staff training, cultural and linguistic competence plans, community advisory boards, organizational policies and procedures, family navigators, and community health workers.

Based on the data gathered, HTPCP developed a set of four tip sheets. These tip sheets provide strategies that HTPCP grantees use to promote diversity and cultural and linguistic competence. The sheets cover:

  • Engaging community and staff members as program liaisons;

  • Assessing cultural and linguistic competence among project staff;

  • Developing public-private partnerships to support interdisciplinary practice; and

  • Hiring bilingual and bicultural program staff.

HTPCP programs have made great strides in improving the cultural competence of services. Most notably, recent data from the HTPCP national outcome evaluation, conducted by the AAP, indicates that 77 percent of former HTPCP grant recipients report that they used the strategies to enhance the cultural competence of their services. Highlights of the evaluation are presented in the HTPCP infographic. However, as the data demonstrate, there is still room for improvement. 

Download, print and share the tip sheets to implement promising practices and lessons learned culled from the experiences of HTPCP grantees. Visit the AAP website to learn more about the Healthy Tomorrows Partnership for Children Program.