Video & Highlights from “5 Slides: A focus on developing cultural competency in health care”

On Thursday, State of Reform hosted our “5 Slides: A focus on developing cultural competency in health care” virtual convening with Dr. Janine Bera, Chief Medical Officer at WellSpace Health, Dr. David M. Carlisle, President & CEO at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and Brian Ternan, CEO & Plan President at Health Net of California.


Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.


During the conversation, the three leaders discussed the importance of supporting a diverse health care workforce that represents the patients it serves. They also described how fostering diversity and cultural competency in the workforce can lead to better outcomes.

Dr. Carlisle brought to the conversation an image from the LA Times highlighting the discrepancy between where vaccines are administered and where COVID hotspots are located in LA County.


Image: Los Angeles Times


No surprise, says Carlisle, the communities with the highest rates of COVID-19 are the communities that are least likely to receive vaccinations. He says this dynamic plays out with other health issues as well. He notes that communities with the highest poor outcomes related to diabetes are also the communities that don’t have access to primary care.

“The United States spends more than any other industrialized nation on health care, but our health care outcomes are among the poorest among the industrialized nations. And the reason is that we don’t get care to the communities that really need it – the under-resourced communities, the under-represented communities, the under-served communities. And as a result, the health care outcomes in those communities drag down the overall performance of our entire country.”

The image specifically contrasts the Beverlywood and Commerce communities. Berverlywood, just south of UCLA, has a 6.1% COVID case rate but a 17.2% vaccination rate. Commerce, which is a heavily Latino community in East LA, has a high prevalence of COVID at 17.7% but an 8.6% vaccination rate.

“Really and truly, it is the most under-resourced segments of our population that are the most challenged in our health care system. And those challenges are manifesting themselves in the outcomes of our health care system.”

In his comments, Ternan described some of the work Health Net is doing to address the workforce shortage facing California.

“This was an issue well before the pandemic hit, but it’s an issue that’s particularly important to us because it impacts our most vulnerable patients in California. As the health care workforce shortage takes root nationally and in California, it disproportionately impacts certain regions of the state that are already under-served.”

He highlighted a recent Health Net workforce development report which found that identifying new talent pools, providing the opportunity for upward mobility at all levels, and the importance of cultural competency training and recruitment as the top strategies to overcome the state’s health care workforce shortage.


Image: Health Net


Ternan says Health Net has invested about $4 million in workforce development initiatives over the past few years. The health plan is providing grants statewide to community organizations to develop targeted recommendations, identify challenges, and find strategies to overcome various workforce related issues.

Part of Health Net’s investment went to Wellspace Health, one of the largest federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in the Sacramento region. Dr. Bera says Wellspace Health was able to use grant money to offer further training to their medical assistants.

“One of the things that we really looked at is the medical assistant,” said Bera. “As a medical assistant, you can max out in your earning potential. But we wanted to make it a really great job.”

Wellspace Health created a program where medical assistants could be trained as health educators. Through the program, their education specifically focused on diabetic education so that the health educators were equipped with knowledge to address an issue prevalent among the people they serve.

“Not only do we get to create a workforce that’s more diverse, more educated, and we provide an individual person with a better job and a better career, but we also can impact our patients by improving their diabetic control.”

Bera also described a 2-day series on implicit bias sponsored by Health Net. She says she brought the speaker to Wellspace Health to provide the same education to their staff.

“Especially in health care, implicit bias can cause the death of patients…By having implicit bias training, by having people start to think about what might get in their way of making good medical decisions, it’s by stopping and having these conversations.”