Out of the numerous learnings from the pandemic, COVID has highlighted several issues within our social structures; one of the most significant findings is the discrepancies in vaccination rates among minorities. For many appropriate reasons, there is a great amount of mistrust. This behavior originates from historical occurrences leading to fatal outcomes. Another issue being that those that provide medical care do not always look like the communities they are serving, further enhancing their concerns.
So how do we overcome these large trust and cultural issues? What community members can we partner with to help expand our reach and improve outcomes of those most in need?
One such group is the Faith-Based Community and its leaders. These community leaders are the most knowledgeable in understanding how their own community’s function, they can communicate successfully with their constituents and, perhaps most importantly, have established trust with their members. They also often have social structures designed to help those that are less fortunate.
Partnering with Faith-Based Leaders allows organizations to expand their voice in a manner that works. Additionally, they could share ideas on how to improve situations that would never have crossed the minds of others. This latter point is critical, as it speaks to listening to the “demand” side of the equation rather than the “supply” side; meaning “we” who deliver healthcare have all the answers.
Critical aspects of leveraging the voice of the Faith-Based Communities is seeking out their council and “listening to hear,” versus “listening to respond.” There is already resentment towards the healthcare ecosystem, which is legitimate and well-founded. So, it is important we allow these conversations to occur. No doubt, there will make mistakes, but having those conversations at the onset is critical.
Another challenge faced by some pastoral leaders is a lack of comfort in dealing with healthcare issues since they are not healthcare professionals. This means we must partner to help provide a better understanding. It would also benefit all, if we engage the healthcare professionals within these faith-based institutions to help alleviate some of the gaps in knowledge.
Many secular leaders of minority groups also play a vital role. These leaders have access to community members unaffiliated with a congregation. They are often highly engaged in the community and bring the same understandings to the conversation. Regardless, partnering with those in our communities is foundational to reducing the healthcare inequities across our communities and fundamental if we genuinely want to create an environment of trust and health equity, especially in times of crisis.