Take a Loved One for a Checkup

National campaign urges blacks to address healthcare disparity

One of the best gifts you can give a loved one is a trip to the doctor. The annual Take a Loved One for a Checkup Day is challenging African Americans to take charge of their healthcare needs and turn around some of the disparities in medical treatment.

“The program is designed to help people go to the doctor to make sure they are evaluated,” says Dr. Olethia Chisolm, a specialist in internal medicine at the Houston-based Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, one of the medical facilities participating in the campaign.

Hosted by radio personality Tom Joyner, Take A Loved One for a Checkup Day is part of a national campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that encourages individuals to see a healthcare professional on Sept. 20, 2005.

As it stands, there are significant differences between white and African American patients. Compared with whites, African Americans are more likely to be seen by physicians who had less experience (i.e., fewer years since completing training), according to a study titled Patient Race/Ethnicity and Quality of Patient—Physician Communication During Medical Visits.

The most glaring finding in the study, however, is that physicians are more likely to dominate the conversation when treating black patients, notes Dr. Rachel L. Johnson, an author of the study.

Johnson reported that during an average visit, physicians talked 43% more than black patients and 24% more than white patients. “Patient-centered communication, including greater patient input into the medical dialogue, has been associated with better patient recall of information, treatment adherence, satisfaction with care, and health outcomes,” the report concludes, stating that the overall tone of medical visits for African Americans is less positive than it is for whites. Experts are hoping their campaign will change that.

“If nothing else, it’s a conversation piece to make people aware of their healthcare needs,” says Chisolm.

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