Seniors learn to navigate complex process of finding best healthcare options


PROVIDENCE — The St. Martin de Porres Multi-Service Center recently organized an informational event for the local elderly as a part of National Minority Health Awareness Month.
The event included breakfast for those in attendance and a talk from Dr. Joseph Diaz, a primary care doctor for adults based in Pawtucket who also serves as the chief health equity officer for Care New England, as well as an associate dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Brown University Medical School, and a medical director for Integra, a network of doctors, hospitals and medical professionals who seek to help patients navigate the often complicated process of finding the best and most affordable healthcare options available.
Dr. Diaz’s talk centered on describing some of the sociological issues relating to access to quality healthcare, and some of the services that Integra offers to help those with medical needs obtain equal access to healthcare.
The event was organized by Kathy McKeon, who has spent most of her career in elder care, including part of her career working with the Catholic Social Ministry Respite Care program in the Diocese of Providence. After her retirement, she became a consumer representative for the Integra Board of Managers, and also works with the St. Martin de Porres Center to organize various events.
Dr. Diaz’s talk began to a packed room by laying out the details surrounding the factors that affect access to healthcare, noting how one of the chief aims of Integra is to promote health equity. Diaz quoted from the Center of Disease Control’s definition of health equity as “the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their highest levels of health.”
Diaz explained that part of attaining health equity lies in personalizing medical treatment to the needs of the individual patient, which are influenced not only by their immediate physical needs, but also their social, financial, psychological, and familial context.
Diaz drew the audience’s attention to how the effects of a lack of personalization in healthcare can be seen in how the number of individuals who make use of important or even lifesaving medical treatments can change drastically from one city to the next, or even from one section of a city to the next, noting that those in poorer regions often are adversely effected by a lack of financial resources, social or familial support, means of transportation, or by language barriers.
He went on to describe the various services provided by Integra, which include helping patients shop for affordable medications, organize transportation to healthcare facilities and providing bilingual services for non-English speaking patients.
The talk was followed by a brief question and answer session.