HHC, Tapestry Receive Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation Awards

HOLYOKE, FLORENCE — To help expand access to “culturally competent health care,” the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) Foundation recently awarded $350,000 to six organizations across Massachusetts, including one in Holyoke and one in Florence.

Holyoke Health Center (HHC) received $40,000 to establish an annual course schedule that standardizes cultural competency training and contract with local and national cultural competence trainers for ongoing staff development. The health center will evaluate and monitor impact of training on HHC staff and patients throughout the year, and develop appropriate plans of course correction based on data trends. Management will regularly assess all staff training needs due to turnover and patients’ needs. Key collaborators on the project include the Holyoke Community College Nursing Department, the Elms College Nursing Department, and Holyoke Medical Center.

Tapestry Health Inc. (THI) in Florence received $60,000 to create guides for staff in serving diverse populations, particularly high-risk clients, people living with HIV/AIDS, and those using drugs. These will include terminology and behaviors that may be unfamiliar to staff who are inexperienced with interacting with these patients.

The BCBSMA grants support health care delivery organizations to expand access to culturally competent health care in a way that is systemic, replicable, and sustainable. The recipients are models of successful collaboration with community-based organizations, strong organizational commitment at various management and staff levels, and effective capacity building to serve culturally diverse populations. Organizations receive up to $65,000 for implementation of their programs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people in the U.S. who identify themselves as belonging to a racial or ethnic minority will increase from its current 25{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} to 33{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} in 2010, and 50{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} by 2050.

Among the most significant implications of this demographic shift is the impact on the quality and delivery of health care; existing disparities in health care will have to be eliminated to ensure a healthy nation in the future. In addition, cultural differences related to sexual orientation, homelessness, and disability are aspects of health care that also need to be addressed. Language differences, divergent values among providers and patients, limited caregiver diversity, and other factors can impede access to quality health care services.

“The foundation is proud of what these grantees are able to accomplish with relatively modest funds while learning to address enormously complex issues,” said Celeste Reid Lee, director of Community Health Programs for the foundation. “What they all have in common is the realization that achieving cultural competence is a journey and not a destination, and they are adopting practices and policies to achieve systemic change.”

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