Study: Fear blocks medical care for NEPA Hispanic/Latino population

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GCSOM research yields troubling results


SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The cost of healthcare and lack of health insurance are seen as two major obstacles for many to get the care they need. But there’s another obstacle facing a growing ethnic population in our area that has nothing to do with money as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains.

As he cleaned a strip mall that’s home to a dental service, Alex Cordero of Scranton reflected on the face of medical practice in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“Basically, there’s no Hispanic doctors out here and that’s a big problem,” he said.

According to a new research project, it’s a problem so big that it’s a barrier to seeking preventative and managed health care among the Hispanic/Latino community in Scranton.

“I’m not entirely surprised,” said Luis Devia.

The native of Colombia is a rising first-year medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine which commissioned the two-month study completed in July under the auspices of the school’s Center of Excellence.

Mr. Devia helped sample responses from about 80 Hispanic/Latino businesses and communities primarily in South Scranton’s 18505 zip code. Besides citing a lack of diversity among health care professionals, the research found something else lacking: trust.

Mr. Devia said, “The socio-political climate, that’s a scary thing. It’s a scary thing when you’re being asked to divulge personal information.”

“Lack of trust is definitely a concern,” said Brian Piper, Ph.D. who served as faculty advisor for the research project which yielded other disturbing findings.

Many of those surveyed in the Hispanic/Latino community admitted they didn’t have access to a primary care provider.

“3/5 said they didn’t have access to dentists and 3/4 said they didn’t have access to various medical specialists. 3/4 didn’t have access to behavioral and mental health services,” said Dr. Piper.

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine’s Center of Excellence Award funds efforts to improve diversity among its student population and the healthcare workforce.

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine President/Dean Steven Scheinman, MD said, “We see this as strengthening the healthcare systems but we also see this as creating an opportunity for a wide range of students from the region.”

It’s what some in the community consider the right prescription. “It will be very valuable. Very. Big time,” said Mr. Cordero.

The research project is ongoing at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Researchers hope to get their work published in the coming months.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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