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Chronic Disease: Raising the Bar for All

While Tarrant County residents in general face many significant barriers to health, chronic conditions and the factors that lead to them can be more common or severe for certain groups. An April 11 seminar sponsored by United Way, its Area Agency on Aging and others was held to help local organizations better identify, gather and track data related to “social determinants” in order to reduce health disparities.

Some groups of people face health differences that are linked to factors such as age, gender, income, ethnicity or where they live, explained Don Smith, United Way Community Development Division Vice President and Director of the Area Agency on Aging. “For example, African Americans are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease or a related disease, and Hispanics are one-and-a-half times more likely,” he said. “If they are poor, lack transportation and have low health literacy, they will likely go undiagnosed. Family members will likely lack the resources to care for their loved one at home.

“Organizations can increase their capacity to better serve these communities by reaching out to them and adding staff who are bilingual and trained to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Tracking statistics related to these social determinants of health helps organizations justify the addition of staff and increase the percentage of these groups that is served.”

Wide-ranging research indicates that the social determinants of health account for 40% to 60% of health care outcomes, he added.

The four-hour training event, “Raising the Bar for All Tarrant County Adults with Chronic Disease,” was held at Meals On Wheels Inc. of Tarrant County. Featured speakers were Amanda English, John Peter Smith Health Network; Sherry Simon, Meals On Wheels Inc. of Tarrant County; Emily Spence-Almaguer, UNT Health Science Center; Teresa Wagner, Literacy Coalition of Central Texas; and Yvette Windgate, Tarrant County Public Health.

Sponsors for the event besides United Way and AAA were the Aging and Disability Resource Center, Cigna, John Peter Smith Health Network, Meals On Wheels Inc. of Tarrant County and the University of Texas at Arlington.