Several weeks ago I saw a patient who exhibited many of the classic signs of depression, depressed mood, trouble sleeping, fatigue, and weight gain, so I administered a PHQ-9, a standard assessment tool for depression and confirmed my suspicions.  We discussed the diagnosis of depression, what it means and options for treatment, as is usual for my practice as a family doctor.  Usually, we (the patient and I) make progress in creating a patient centered approach to address their condition, but that day, I found my usual practice came up short.  

While she is safe, I don't feel our treatment planning was optimal.  You see, my patient came to this country as a refugee and my experience with her brought the issues of health disparities and cultural competence into sharp focus -- my approach didn't match her personal experience, history, culture and concepts about health. For me, this was a call to action to learn more about what might work for her and the diverse patient population I see.  

NHMS created the Health Disparities Task Force to assist us in understanding and reducing health disparities and to work toward health equity.  Last week the task force convened physicians and allies for a strategic planning meeting.  We discussed health disparities in the context of our communities in New Hampshire and discovered that there is tremendous diversity in physician experiences with health disparities.  In some New Hampshire communities the disparities are high but are lacking resources to address them, while in others the disparities are invisible.  The task force will work to make disparities visible in our state, promote what works to address them, create a resource library, and develop training sessions for doctors and leaders in health care to learn about cultural competence, the importance of a diverse workforce, knowledge specific to certain populations, and how to marshal resources to address them.  

I'm very excited by the direction of this Task Force.  If you are too, please email Scott Colby  to become involved.