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Reflections on the 8th Annual DiversityRx Conference in Oakland

by Yamila El-Khayat, MALS
Outreach Services Librarian, Arizona Health Sciences Library
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ

The Eighth National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations: Achieving Equity in an Era of Innovation and Health System Transformation, which took place at the Oakland Marriott City Center March 11-14, 2013, was a spectacular event! I attended the meeting, along with Kay Deeney and Lori Tagawa from NN/LM PSR. Cheryl Rowan, MSLS, Consumer Health Coordinator from the NN/LM South Central Region, kicked off the event with a pre-conference session called From Beyond our Borders: Providing Health Information to Foreign-Born Populations. She covered the importance of quality health information for refugee and immigrant communities, not only in their language, but in ways that are easier to understand culturally. Her session included demonstrations of resources that are designed to fulfill the need for this kind of information.

DiversityRx opening keynote

A welcome to the conference was provided by Dennis Andrulis, PhD, MPH, of the Texas Health Institute. He mentioned that conferences like these were important because it is helpful to talk about the differences in culture; and he pointed out that it is difficult to reach a full level of cultural competence. “To be culturally competent is to reach infinity, you can get closer, but you will never get there, because there is always something new to learn.” Hearing him say this really put things into perspective; learning about cultures is never ending but yet is so important. Workshops following the opening covered topics about communication, disparities, outreach programs, race and ethnicity data, and other relevant topics. During lunch an award was presented to Mr. Guadalupe Pacheco as the Second DiversityRx National Champion for Health Equity and Quality Awardee! His efforts to improve the health and the healthcare for our nation’s diverse communities were highlighted. Colleagues had much to say about him, which showed how much of an advocate he was for his community, as well as other communities.

The following day’s opening plenary session was the panel discussion Redressing the Legacy of Racism to Make Meaningful Progress on Health Equity. The panelists highlighted the historical and current impact of racism and unconscious bias in health care. One of the speakers stated: “Our truncated public discussions of race suppress the best of who and what we are as people because they fail to confront the complexity of the issue in a candid and critical manner” (Cornell West, 1993). This statement pointed out how we should be more humble and try to better understand others. Dr. Manuel Pastor really brought it into perspective by showing recent statistics of how quickly minority populations are growing in this country. He mentioned that by 2050, more than half of the U.S. population will be made up of minorities; emphasizing the need to learn how to be sensitive to all cultures. He ended his talk by quoting the song in the movie “8 Mile” by Eminem, “Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip?” Dr. Pastor concluded by saying, “Let’s not let this opportunity slip!”

The day progressed with workshops covering topics about cultural competence, interpretation, health strategies, and even a session on community health navigators. This conference really helped inspire me in the work we do as librarians, to deliver health information with cultural aspects, and increase the knowledge of this information in the medical field when working with different ethnic groups!

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