Modern healthcare is responsible for a great many advancements in public health and has allowed communities to access untold levels of sanitation, safety and longevity. Despite this, healthcare in the US has noticeable divisions between communities. One of the biggest barriers to healthcare within the US appears to be the diversity of the population. In areas that house multiple ethnic groups, such as in the urban sprawl of cities, there has historically been a disproportionate gap between the healthcare access of ethnic minorities compared to majority groups. According to the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, ethnic minorities are less likely to have health insurance, and social and economic conditions are a driving factor in affecting the quality of healthcare over the actual care delivered by practitioners.
These factors continue to impact diverse populations and impose a barrier to accessing proper healthcare that should be rectified. It’s in the hands of healthcare professionals to make the push for change, and no profession may be better suited to that than nursing, with the potential for family nurse practitioners to enact real change among diverse communities.
Promoting health among diverse populations
To the layman, promoting health among diverse populations may seem to be a big term, but it’s actually quite simple. Altogether it means supporting a variety of different groups that may differ by age, race, religion, gender, sexuality or any number of other factors and ensuring that they all have equal access to the same standard of healthcare. It requires ensuring that outside factors, whether they be cultural, economic or social, do not jeopardize the ability of any group to receive quality healthcare when it is required.
In the medical world, health promotion generally refers to the process of enabling people to increase control over their health and its determinants, thereby improving their health. This is achieved by equipping communities and individuals with the tools necessary to gain a better understanding of their own health along with how they can get the best healthcare and removing barriers and providing ease of access to healthcare services. This can be especially important in communities where healthcare is often neglected due to economic or community factors. Many areas are economically and socially disadvantaged to the point that healthcare may become a secondary concern. Health promotion involves employing strategies and interventions aimed at improving the health of individuals, communities, and populations, generally through targeted programs that work best for that community and make outreach to healthcare professionals easier. The success of health promotion programs depends on their ability to reach and engage diverse populations.
Diversity and its meaning
Diversity refers to the spectrum of differences that exist among people, with just a few of the major examples being differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and geographic location. Even things such as age can have a major impact on a group’s health and quality of life. These differences are important in the discussion of healthcare as data shows that these factors can have a significant impact on health outcomes. Any of these differences can have an affect and influence access to health care. Health behaviors, and social and economic factors can also have an impact on the general health of a community or group. When engaging in health promotion, efforts must be tailored to the specific needs and characteristics of diverse populations to ensure complete equality of healthcare provision.
Methods used to promote health in diverse populations
One of the key principles of promoting health across different groups and populations is a concept called cultural competence. Cultural competence refers to the ability to develop an understanding and appreciation of the many different values, beliefs and behaviors of various cultural groups and integrating them effectively in the effort to provide easily accessible healthcare. For health promotion programs to be effective, they must be culturally appropriate and responsive, taking into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of the populations they serve, the reasons these groups might not have as much access to healthcare, and what moves can be taken to solve that within the culture of the community or group being served.
It’s essential in the push for open healthcare that the concept of equity is kept in mind, for all groups of the population. Health equity refers to the absence of unfair and avoidable differences in health among different population groups, to the point that all groups can attain the same level of healthcare and have the same ease of access to it, regardless of their situation. In order to reach a point of equity, health promotion programs must be designed to address the root causes of health inequities, such as poverty, discrimination and inaccessible healthcare centers. Part of this involves addressing the different challenges faced by minority populations, and therefore prioritizing the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations, as they are overwhelmingly the groups most affected by health disparities in diverse populations.
What this all means is that in the fight to promote healthcare in diverse populations we must address the social determinants of health. Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, and as a result are what shape their health prospects and outcomes. This includes factors such as education, employment, housing and social support. To ensure equal access, consideration of these factors is necessary. Implementing methods to support groups with different social determinants that may affect their ability to access healthcare in the way society has come to see as the norm may be the way forward.
While much of the work must be put in by others, the push for equal healthcare must be inclusive and consensual. It must involve the active participation of the communities being served, as well as other stakeholders, such as health care providers, policymakers and community leaders. This approach encourages methods and solutions that are tailor-made for specific communities and work best for them, as well as allowing communities to uphold their own standard of healthcare in the future without relying on the constant interference of others. Solutions should reflect the needs of the community they are meant to serve, and should encourage healthcare through joint action, rather than having it forced upon them.
The role of nurse family practitioners in equitable healthcare
Nurses, specifically family nurse practitioners, play a vital role in the provision of equal access healthcare to all populations. Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in providing primary care services to individual patients and families of all ages, from infants to the elderly. FNPs are trained to deliver comprehensive and culturally competent care to these individuals and families in a variety of settings, including clinics, hospitals and community health centers, but also often provide home-visits and in-home care. This makes them well-equipped for outreach and able to help other communities that require immediate access to healthcare settings.
FNPs in diverse populations
One of the key strengths of family nurse practitioners is their ability to work with a wide range of diverse populations effectively and to provide quality, long-term medical care to communities by becoming integrated in them or in many cases originating from them. They have a unique set of skills and knowledge that enables them to provide care that is tailored to the needs of various cultural groups. By training to work with individuals and families, FNPs are prepared to accommodate any cultural differences they may encounter in their work and continue providing healthcare to at-risk and vulnerable groups in a safe environment, such as their own home. These nurses may already be a part of the group or community they are caring for, meaning they can integrate seamlessly and the community can internally assist with healthcare without relying on outside facilities or professionals that they may struggle to access.
FNPs understand the importance of cultural competence in promoting health and are trained to deliver care that is sensitive to the cultural beliefs, values and practices of their patients. This is only possible with the long-term association that FNPs have with their patients, as even the most well-meaning general practitioners or registered nurses can only learn so much about every difference between patients in a typical caregiving setting. The limits of the traditional healthcare structure also only allow a degree of accommodation. As FNPs often work with patients in their own homes or in local care centers, they are better poised to adapt to a group’s specific needs and provide adequate care that suits the beliefs, values and practices of the patient.
Family nurse practitioners are also well-positioned to address the social determinants of health. They are trained to understand that health and its provision through a caregiver is about more than just treating illness and includes considering aspects such as addressing the social and economic factors that impact health outcomes. FNPs are able to assess the social determinants of health and work with patients and families to develop strategies to address them. This is a crucial part of their role and what makes them so great for equity of healthcare in diverse populations. Rather than working according to a specific hospital policy in clinical settings, they have the flexibility and adaptability to provide alternative solutions and means of healthcare without compromising the level of care that is provided.
They also work closely with other healthcare professionals, community organizations and policymakers to promote health equity and improve the health of diverse populations by addressing social determinants on a larger scale, such as throughout the community, making wider changes across whole populations to improve quality of and access to healthcare.
Becoming a family nurse practitioner
Working to become a nurse, and specifically specializing as a family nurse practitioner, is an excellent way to get involved in the effort to provide more equitable healthcare across all populations and to ensure marginalized groups have equal access. Nurses are always in high demand, and the need for culturally competent and skilled healthcare providers is only increasing as time goes on. By pursuing a career in nursing, individuals can make a difference in the lives of not only their patients but in their entire community. Nurses have the opportunity to work with a variety of different populations and improve their quality of life, they can work to provide compassionate care, and to advocate for policies and programs that promote health equity.
- Becoming a registered nurse
The first step in becoming a family nurse practitioner is to become registered as a nurse and start working. To accomplish this, individuals must complete an accredited nursing program, which can be completed at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree level. After completing their education, graduates must pass a licensure exam to become a registered nurse. The nature of this exam will vary by state, so be sure to check the requirements before taking the exam.
- How to become a family nurse practitioner
To become a family nurse practitioner, nurses must complete an accredited master’s or doctoral program. The TWU Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner online degree is perfect for those who aren’t able to relocate to complete their studies, offering a fully online course that promises to transform your approach to nursing and allows you to become a holistic care provider capable of making real changes in the lives of the people around you. Programs such as this one offered by the Texas Woman’s University equip students with the necessary tools to make a real difference in the communities they serve.
In addition to completing additional studies, you’ll also need to complete another certification exam. This can be administered by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners or by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. These are nationally certified exams. Both provide you with equal opportunity to immediately move on to work as an FNP as soon as you pass.
The fight for equitable healthcare goes on, with many populations, especially those that are most marginalized and underrepresented, being subject to a massive gap in their access to healthcare. As a result, entire populations and communities are subject to declining or poor health standards. By becoming an FNP, you can help change that, as you will have the tools to change the state of entire communities and improve quality of life for all. Through your role as an FNP, you will be well-positioned to assist in improving the access to and quality of care within diverse communities.