Letitia Plummer addresses health disparities and provides sustainable solutions towards health equity and attaining health literacy for all communities.
Houston’s medical centers offer some of the best health care option around the country. Even with the best medical centers available, many in our city do not have access to them. Studies from MD Anderson show that zip codes rather than biology determine, life expectancy for our city’s residents with mortality
rate being the highest amongst the Black and Hispanic communities. Social and economic exclusion, lack of affordable housing and transportation access, reduced employment opportunities, all contribute to the disparity in healthcare.
Hurricane Harvey left a devastating impact on the physical and mental health of Houstonians. Stagnant water in the homes, sewage water and bacteria- zontaminated water in the bayou have caused a variety of health problems. Mold growth and dust from demolition and repairs have led to respiratory issues
the emotional impact have left our residents with unmet mental health issues. The mental and physical health of residents has to be a priority since their wellbeing is necessary to maintain Houston’s economic potential and to support the city’s infrastructure. We must ensure that our city’s Emergency Preparedness Plan includes educating residents regularly, through various platforms, on prevention, preparedness, recovery, and resilience. All of those phases should address healthcare and what residents can do during those phases to prevent adverse health impacts. Our mental health care must consider our city’s diversity and provide culturally appropriate solutions
Houston’s health disparity in underserved communities is also magnified due to limited or no transportation available from the communities to the health clinics. In addition to creating transportation solutions, we need to invest in community clinics that offer preventative healthcare and baseline assessments. Preventative healthcare should also address healthy diets and provide the community with resources through a partnership with Houston’s Foodbank. It should also include
opportunities for recreational and leisure activities, which are significant elements of preventive health care as they aid in rehabilitation, maintenance of health and the reduction of stress. These are some of the factors, if not controlled, can lead to early demise, and are especially prevalent in low income,
African American and Hispanic communities.
The costs of medical visits are a deterrent to low-income families. As a doctor, as a board member of several health boards and as a community volunteer, I know community-based organizations, are instrumental in bridging gaps for the city’s uninsured and underserved populations. We need to promote collaborations between medical schools and community clinics so that they can share
resources, develop work initiatives and benefit from workforce development. Also, we need to make use of emerging technologies that connect patients with healthcare professionals for medical advice. For our city to reach its potential, it is imperative that we prioritize the health of our residents by making sure that everyone has access to health care and are knowledgeable about preventative care. Our Emergency Preparedness Plan must include mental and physical welfare in all phases of a disaster, and we need to leverage collaborations between medical schools and community clinics to provide affordable health care to vulnerable communities.