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Disparities Council Meets in Preparation for Grading the Commonwealth

Disparities Council Meets in Preparation for Grading the Commonwealth

June 24, 2009

On Monday June 22, the Massachusetts Health Disparities Council held its monthly meeting. The meeting comprised of legislators, providers, and health care groups from across the state was chaired by Senator Susan Fargo and Representative Byron Rushing.

The meeting began with a review of the use and demand for interpreter services in Massachusetts Hospitals. The good news was that of the 72 hospitals surveyed for the study, 100% agreed to participate in the research. The bad news was the documented discovery that there is inadequate accessibility to linguistic services in clinical settings in the Commonwealth. These inadequacies can lead to a communication breakdown between patients and providers creating worse care as patients lose the ability to effectively communicate with their doctors and vice versa. With this in mind, the council reviewed some recommendations related to the study’s outcome including future advancement of linguistic training measures, regulations to certify medical interpreters, and standards for providing and reimbursing these interpreters.

The council then discussed some glaring statistics from the statewide distribution of racial and ethnic hospital care in 2007 and 2008. Some of the highlights of the findings were that in the FY 2008, 80.48% of those treated in inpatient care were white, while only 7.13% were Hispanic and only 6.79% were African American. The Council discussed how its proposed framework of policy recommendations can address the societal, policy, community, institutional, and individual factors that create these types of disparities.

The Council also spent significant time discussing and reviewing a template for a report card of the state’s performance on disparity matters. The report card aims to not only capture disparities data but effectiveness of interventions and opportunities for policy change. The Council wants to make sure that the report card provides a comprehensive and practical tool for the state to advance its disparities elimination efforts.

Finally, the members reviewed the new Council website, created to engage both members and the public in its activities. The Council will next meet on Monday July 27th at 2pm.

- Brian Schon
Policy Intern