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Efforts Underway To Improve Doctors “Cultural Competency”

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 12 Aug 2011 04:25pm | comments
Trainer Dr. Robin Higashi.

Mississippians who are most at risk to contract HIV are also some of the hardest to reach. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on efforts to help Mississippi doctors cross cultural-boundaries.

More than half of new HIV infections are in the south, making prevention efforts more important than ever.

Tuscan based Dr. Robin Higashi teaches public health providers about cultural competency and how to communicate people at high risk for HIV.

Higashi, who spoke recently in Jackson, says doctors need cultural training because many medical schools do not focus much attention on how to interact with people who doctors might not agree with.

"There is also evidence that patients will even have better health outcomes when they feel like they are being treated respectfully by their doctor, and that their doctor understands them. SO I think, on a number of levels, a doctor can communicate sensitively and impact their health outcome," Higashi said.

Phillip Grisham is a nurse and the president of the Mississippi chapter of nurses in AIDS care....he says he has seen doctors struggle to reach out to patients in marginalized communities, which drives some possible patients away.

 

"Particularly in small rural areas, which is most of Mississippi, they find it difficult to let people know that they have a certain condition, particularly HIV, because there is such a stigma," Grisham said.

Robin Webb with the Jackson based HIV prevention group A Brave New Day, says Mississippians engaging in high risk behaviors that are not culturally sanctioned will often avoid the health care, or lie about their behavior, rather than feel stigmatized by a critical doctor.

"So we want to try to make a better environment so that people feel that they are living in a safe space. And we believe that that affects all of our community health," Webb said.

Webb says training and education, like the recent Jackson seminar on interacting with the state's transgender population, can improve doctor's communication with patients and slow the rate of HIV infection in Mississippi.

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Trainer Dr. Robin Higashi.


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