Helping Hispanic patients in Jax

Beyond translation

UF pediatricians launch initiative to help Hispanic patients in Jacksonville

By Matt Galnor

Two UF College of Medicine–Jacksonville pediatricians are launching a Hispanic Healthcare Initiative to help the medical community better understand and care for Latino families.

The initiative includes a Jacksonville Hispanic Guide that will be published in English and Spanish this fall, listing contacts for everything from doctors and health insurance programs to food banks and churches.

Laura N. Beverly, M.D., and Patricia A. Solo-Josephson, M.D., both assistant professors of pediatrics, saw the complexity of the problem firsthand in their practice at the Beaches Family Health Center, where 40 percent of their patients are Hispanic.

Beverly, medical director of the center, Solo-Josephson, and fellow pediatrician Rachel Schare, M.D., would see families that wouldn’t come for follow-up appointments or meet with specialists. They’d see parents who never picked up prescriptions and others who wouldn’t bring children for routine appointments and shots.

And that’s if people went to the doctor at all.

Beverly and Solo-Josephson were awarded an $11,000 Community Access to Child Health planning grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2009 to study the issue and develop a plan to fix it.

The doctors joined forces with the Duval County Health Department’s Hispanic Advisory Committee to get a better understanding of the issues facing Hispanic immigrants, especially when it comes to medical care.

Through those discussions, Beverly and Solo-Josephson identified some of the major barriers Hispanic families have to health care, including language, legal status, finances, and simply understanding the American medical system.

During focus group meetings held entirely in Spanish, Hispanic patients revealed stories of fear and distrust — some even sent a spy into a doctor’s office to check for immigration officials before the family would walk in. Hispanic patients said they felt looked down upon for not speaking English and said they were often hung up on when trying to make an appointment over the phone.

The Hispanic population in Jacksonville (about 7 percent) has doubled in the past 10 years and is the fastest-growing ethnicity in the city.

“It is so important to connect with your patients,” Solo-Josephson said. “Part of how you make that connection is showing them you want to be able to communicate with them, even if they speak a different language.”