I Am a Primary Care Champion

The following is republished from the October issue of the enewsletter to PCC Executive Members. Each issue of the newsletter features a short profile of an individual who works in primary care. It is a way of recognizing the dedication and passion that clinicians, advocates, and others have for primary care and connecting readers of this newsletter to people like them.

Linda Goler Blount, MPH

CEO, Black Women's Health Imperative

Why are you passionate about primary care? 

Primary care is almost always our first encounter with the medical care delivery system. Whether it is for a bad cold, PAP test, or prenatal care, internists, family physicians and OB/GYNs provide primary care services to women. Primary care clinicians are responsible for understanding a woman’s health holistically and connecting and coordinating the health care she needs. Lack of care coordination is responsible for unnecessary costs and significant, avoidable mortality. The beauty of primary care is that it is our window to wellness and empowerment. Those patients who can have open, honest conversations with their PCPs, who know they won’t be judged, and who know they will be treated with value and respect do have better outcomes. They feel as though they are on a team committed to getting and keeping them well.  

If you had a magic wand that you could wave to change one thing in primary care, what would it be?

The magic wand I’d wave and a bit of fairy dust that I’d sprinkle would change one thing: Primary care clinicians would treat every Black woman and woman of color as if she were the most loved and treasured member of the family. We know not receiving quality care is responsible for thousands of premature deaths each year. Very few PCPs intend to provide anything but the best care. However, more than 30 years of research has shown that assumptions healthcare clinicans make about what their patients will or will not do influences treatment and can have serious consequences. As one internist said, “I treat every woman, no matter her age, as though she were my sister. And I love my sister! That way I know I’m providing the best care I can.”

What one thing about your work do you want people working outside primary care to know or understand?

Black women and women of color bring their lived experiences to their health. We are passionate and committed to our health. It is important for those outside primary health care to understand that there are real barriers to accessing quality care and our health outcomes and the disparities we see as compared with White women are in no way biologic or genetic in nature. Lack of insurance or poor quality insurance determines what kind of care a woman has access to as do office hours, location and, for women with children, child care. These factors can necessitate taking time off work, traveling long distances or simply paying out of pocket. These are barriers that many medical professionals often don’t consider but that primary care clinicans see everyday. Availability and accessibility are not synonymous.
 
Looking back on your career, what’s the most significant contribution to primary care that you or your team have made?

The Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) study on how Black women define health led to IndexUS, the first-ever research on Black women’s health based on healthy Black women. Those of us in the health disparities field spend an inordinate amount of time examining what is wrong. Rarely do we stop to consider health from the patient’s perspective. It turns out Black women do not view their health as problematic. BWHI took an asset-based approach to research and analysis and provided a more realistic way of understanding Black women’s health. The study highlights the role of patient-centered care in preventing premature mortality. And this report gives primary care clinicians important insight into what Black women consider important about their health and how they might use this information to provide better, patient-centered care.

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