Take 5 with Amanda Boomershine
Health studies survey underway in our area
Although language is her specialty, these days AMANDA BOOMERSHINE is collecting and charting data as she heads up a comprehensive effort to understand unmet health care needs in southeastern North Carolina.
Boomershine, a professor of Spanish at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, is the primary investigator for a Community Health Needs Survey, a collaborative project of the YWCA of the Lower Cape Fear, the UNCW Latino Alliance, and the New Hanover County NAACP. The goal? To identify what factors prevent people in the six-county region served by New Hanover Regional Medical Center from achieving their full health potential.
Some barriers are easy to understand. Lack of money and health insurance is a big deterrent, as is lack of transportation, she says. But there are other, less obvious ones.
“People tend to think white vs. nonwhite, but it’s more complicated than that,” Boomershine says. “The refugee community is even more different. They are permanent residents with green cards, but they may have grown up in refugee camps, where they didn’t even have flush toilets.
“The community I most work with is the Latinx community,” she continues. “Their health needs are great; they face different barriers, including barriers of language and culture. Health care and the way we provide and manage it in the U.S. is so different from many countries in other parts of the world.”
Even the greeting common in the United States: “Hi! How are you doing?” can perplex a foreigner. Here, Boomershine says, it doesn’t really invite an answer.
“But it would generate a 15-minute conversation where they come from. This (cultural difference) is not necessarily something people learn in medical training,” she says. “Community clinics understand these things better because maybe some of their staff members’ backgrounds.”
Many towns and villages in the developing world don’t have hospitals; they might not even have a doctor. There’s more reliance on indigenous beliefs and medicines, according to Boomershine. When people from Africa, Asia, or Latin America immigrate to the United States, they often don’t have a written health history because they’ve not had regular checkups.
Language is another frequent barrier. But even if underserved people speak English, they may not know what questions to ask of a medical professional and may feel uncomfortable talking to someone they don’t know.
Barriers of language, culture, and economics may make it difficult for those in the region’s underserved populations to access the online Community Health Needs Survey, but the survey team is using a number of contact points to reach the public. That includes getting the word out through NHRMC, community clinics, and nonprofit organizations working with the medically underserved, as well as through local businesses and the media.
“We definitely want people to take the survey, and want them to know that the results will matter,” Boomershine says. “We genuinely want to know what their barriers are; what their challenges are, and what we need to do.”
Currently the project team is seeking approval from the appropriate Institutional Review Board – the body that protects the rights of people who are subjects of medical studies – to circulate the survey in paper form as well as the current online version.
“Once the paper one is approved, we plan to visit events, festivals, and locations the target population frequents to make sure that their voices are heard around health equity,” Boomershine says. “We hope to be able to provide preliminary results by the end of the summer.”
Survey info at tinyurl.com/HealthILM.
Take 5 With Amanda Boomershine
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED?
“I’m the co-leader of UNCW’s Latino Alliance and president of the local chapter of the United Nations Association. The community I most work with is the Latinx community. In the 2010 census, Hispanics represented 6% of the population; we’re estimating that has risen to 10% if not more. We’re seeing more Hispanic children in the schools. Health care needs are great, and they face barriers to receiving it, including those of language and culture. Work hours are also a challenge for them getting access to medical care.”
WHOM IS THE SURVEY INTENDED FOR?
“Our hope is that everyone living in Southeast North Carolina will have the opportunity to fill out the survey, and we are hoping to tap into populations that have been historically marginalized. We definitely want people to take the survey and want them to know that the results will matter. We genuinely want to know what their barriers are; what their challenges are, and what we need to do (to connect them with services). Some members of our team are employees of the hospital. Our hope is that anyone who provides care in the community would be willing to look at the data.”
IF YOU HOPE THAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE POOR ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE WILL TAKE THE SURVEY, MIGHT THEY ALSO HAVE TROUBLE GETTING ACCESS TO A COMPUTER TO TAKE THE SURVEY?
“Yes. We are trying to reach them through community networking, nonprofits that serve them, stores in their neighborhoods, community facilities, and health clinics. The survey will be distributed throughout the six-county area primarily served by New Hanover Regional Medical Center.”
WHY CONDUCT THE SURVEY NOW?
“The pandemic is really helping everyone to see the incredible impact that lack of access to affordable and culturally appropriate health care has on our community, especially our neighbors of color. Our hope is that this survey will allow everyone in the community to share what has been a challenge or barrier for their family when trying to access health care, be it preventive care or treatment for an illness.”
WHAT IS THE SURVEY PERIOD?
“The survey period started in January, and it will stay open through 2021. We have had some responses. Stephanie Smith (a registered nurse and faculty member in UNCW’s College of Health and Human Services) is handling the data.”
To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.
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