To help address this disparity among in end-of-life care among African Americans in the U.S., the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has created a Diversity Advisory Council – a group of hospice and healthcare professionals and experts who will work to increase access to hospice and palliative care services.
Researchers have tackled this disparity, to identify why such under-utilization of hospice exists. Studies have concluded that many African Americans are distrustful of the government and the healthcare system, a distrust that is rooted in both historical and present day experiences, and may play a role in the decisions families make when facing the challenges of a life-limiting illness.
“Of all patients utilizing hospice in 2013, approximately 8.4% were identified as black or African American,” says NHPCO Senior Vice President of Education, Access, and Philanthropy, Diane Hill Taylor. “With guidance from the Diversity Advisory Council, we will build a strong initiative to ensure that we’re reaching all those who need hospice care.”
To support the work of hospice providers, a newly-revised version of NHPCO’s African American Outreach Guide is now available online, free of charge. The Guide outlines key principles and insights to help hospices better serve this diverse community.
The council will assist with the development of additional resources and tools related to serving diverse populations. The group will offer recommendations and educational content to NHPCO members who are seeking to connect with diverse populations in the communities they serve.
An additional resource in this initiative will be NHPCO’s public awareness campaign “Moments of Life: Made Possible by Hospice,” which features the real stories of patients and families as they experience the benefits of hospice. The recent additions of campaign videos “Willie’s Family Picnic” and “Hannabelle’s Wonderful Life” showcase hospice care at its best serving diverse populations.
“Informing, caring for and genuinely hearing the needs of the African American community, and all under-served communities, are essential elements in creating a successful outreach initiative,” says Diversity Advisory Council Co-Chair Dr. Bernice Catharine Harper. “The council will provide information, guidance, and technical expertise to NHPCO and its member organizations to expand and continue their efforts to increase access to hospice care for diverse populations.”
The council will also address other diverse groups with low hospice utilization rates including Latino and Asian populations.
“In addition to learning basic demographic information it’s essential to understand each community’s cultural beliefs,” says Taylor. “We must learn to adapt our messaging about hospice care to better align with a community’s healthcare practices and end-of-life cultural beliefs and attitudes.”
NHPCO has additional outreach guides to help reach diverse communities available on nhpco.org/access.