As we work to transform our health system, we know patient-centered care is a key driver of better health, better care and lower costs for all Oregonians. To be patient-centered, the services people receive must be responsive to the ways that culture, background, ethnicity and other factors influence a person’s needs and expectations for their care.
A recent story from our agency highlights the importance of providing care that is culturally appropriate.
Joshua Tinae’s treatment team at Oregon State Hospital needed help last year. The 31-year-old patient from American Samoa was not responding to treatment. The team was interpreting Joshua’s behavior as apathetic and they believed he was refusing to participate in his care. They sought a cultural assessment from Mina Schoenheit – one of the first referrals of its kind at the hospital.
Mina’s assessment helped the treatment team understand how Josh’s culture approaches mental illness and the role of his family as a support system. It also identified language barriers. The process helped Joshua open up to Mina and ultimately to his treatment team. Today, Joshua holds a hospital job as a landscaper and he is preparing to transition out of the hospital.
In the future, many patients at OSH will benefit from the work Mina, Joshua and his treatment team contributed to developing a protocol for cultural assessments at the hospital.
Other initiatives are underway across our agency and among our community partners that will improve Oregonians’ access to culturally appropriate care. Our Office of Equity and Inclusion is taking the lead on work to improve language access for people who receive services. We are supporting the development of a traditional health worker workforce that includes peer support specialists, health navigators and others who will deliver culturally appropriate services. And we are committed to a diversity recruitment policy that addresses barriers to employment and provides strategies for increasing diversity and cultural competence among our staff.
Health equity is a core value of the Oregon Health Authority because we recognize that we all have a responsibility to eliminate health disparities. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to increase our understanding and our capacity to ensure the highest quality of care to all Oregonians.