Coming out of the aftermath of COVID-19, the Institute for Functional Medicine could not have chosen a more appropriate theme for this year’s Annual International Conference than the prevention of chronic and infectious disease, with highlights on racial disparities in healthcare.
While we are aware that co-morbidities from chronic illnesses played a significant role in deaths due to COVID19, statistics reveal additional demographics about its impact on people of color with the greatest number of case-counts and deaths having occurred in Native American, Black and Latino populations. Access to adequate healthcare for these populations has had a long-standing history of being deficient, and this pandemic has exemplified its impact with far-reaching devastation.
While it’s encouraging to see the IFM bring light to these issues, how will functional medicine practices play their part in making services accessible to underserved populations? Many challenges lie ahead in making this viable. Some answers may be found in reviewing the successes achieved during the Obesity Prevention Initiatives from the 2010’s.
During the early years of the Obama administration, soaring rates of chronic illness, obesity and the wide gulf in healthcare disparities prompted the administration’s formation of the Obesity Prevention Initiatives. Funding for the program was funneled into major cities across the nation where efforts were initiated to improve access to healthcare, curtail food deserts, improve school nutrition programs, build resources for outdoor exercise and community gardens, educate on lifestyle factors and more.
Drawing from some of the successes of this program along with current day trends, here are some interventions that could be potentially useful for practices to consider:
- Outreach on grassroots levelsmay help to educate about functional medicine principles and simple lifestyle practices that can easily be integrated into people’s lives.
- Building relationships with local leaders may help to facilitate collaborations toward improved access.
- Group healthcare may offer opportunities for affordable access.
- Group health coaching services that are culturally sensitive may support change.
- Creation of innovative programs may aid practices in finding viable ways to provide services that meet the unique needs of communities while providing opportunities for participation and sustainability.
The pandemic clearly illuminated the cracks in our healthcare system, highlighting the perils of the soaring rates of chronic illness and the wide gap in healthcare disparities. Building resilience in health, both individually and collectively is essential for the public health for us all. Creativity, innovation and resourcefulness will be key for practices to succeed in helping to bridge the gap.
Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.
– Barack Obama