A recently published pilot study examines the barriers – and the solutions – to addressing poverty and its subsequent risk to health, by Ontario’s primary care professionals.
The study was conducted through interviews with a dozen health experts in Toronto, including specialist physicians, general practitioners, nurse practitioners, community workers and advocates, social policy experts and researchers. It shows that primary care providers may:
- Have a lack of understanding of the realities of living in poverty;
- Not collect sufficient information on their patients’ social circumstances;
- Which leads to inappropriate care plans for their patients
The results of this study can be used to support the development of an educational curriculum for family physicians and other health care practitioners. It will also be used to support a larger study with Ontario’s family health practitioners, the results of which are expected to lead to more flexible practice rules enabling low income patients to better follow their treatment plan.
While participants acknowledged they understood poverty in a theoretical sense, they did not know how it impacted in concrete terms on the ability of their patients to follow care plans. Findings echoed previous learnings. Patients’ issues included limited or no access to transportation (to get to their appointments), and not having a valid health care card. Practitioners cited billing structures (that discouraged longer appointments needed for complex needs), unwelcoming practice environments, and a lack of familiarity with community resources (preventing them from sourcing out assistance with social aspects of care, including income support.)
Authors suggest that the barriers in this study are concrete and surmountable in part through education and alteration in doctors’ practices, and recommend shifting research away from identification of barriers to examination of primary care interventions as a means of reducing poverty as a risk factor to their patients’ health.
See, “Barriers to primary care responsiveness to poverty as a risk factor for health” available at www.biomedcentral.com.