By Donald Sykes, president/CEO
Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, Inc.
The recent and unfortunate events of Haiti have captured our attention in the past weeks. It has also provided for refl ection as I think about our immediate community. Economically, Haiti is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Americas. The average income for an individual in Haiti is less than $2 a day.
Although Haiti is a far cry from the life we live in Milwaukee, some comparisons can be made to what happens when the infrastructure of a community begins to collapse without provisions for education, job creation and healthcare.
Other comparisons and disparities can also be drawn when one part of the world is living in such poor conditions while another is wealthy, much like, one part of a county has a failing school system and the other part of the county has a school system nationally recognized for academic excellence.
The inequalities are visible in our community and are seen through disparities in health, education, and employment. While income can be attributed to some of these disparities, it by no means accounts for them all; race can be a strong factor as well.
For instance, many studies on healthcare have revealed the disparities in care among minority patients. These disparities have only increased has our society becomes more and more diverse. One such study, published by the Institute on Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, points out that patient care is often compromised by the providers’ lack of knowledge regarding the patients’ health beliefs and life experiences and the providers’ unintentional and intentional processes of racism, classism, homophobia and sexism.
How do we address these disparities?
Training in cultural competency is typically used to address such issues in health care as well as other industries. This training is designed to help the practitioner in developing cultural sensitivity, however what has become more apparent is that cultural competency is just one step in this lifelong learning process. In addition, practitioners from education to health need to develop cultural humility.
Cultural humility is a process by which the practitioner engages in self-reflection and self-critique regarding their views on other cultures. In other words, the practitioner must ask his or her self what their real attitude are about other culture, while examining their own patterns of unintentional and intentional racism, classism, and homophobia.
As a part of our planning process the MAWIB has been targeting occupations that offer sustainable wages, and health care is one such industry. The MAWIB is aware that the infrastructure of a society is interdependent on the health of its citizens, the educational system and employment.
The MAWIB is working in partnership with community health educators and organizers to provide individuals with training to become Community Health Workers. The use of Community Health Care Workers and community based care has been strongly urged as a part of physician training and service delivery. This combination allows physicians to learn to identify, believe in and build on the assents and adaptive strengths of communities. In other words, this pathway provides a bridge into the community that allows the practitioner to acknowledge the culture and tradition of another while helping them make the necessary changes to promote good health.
I think about the incident in Haiti as another reminder of just how closely related we all are and mostly the impact a crisis can have on the already disenfranchised.
Haiti is a reminder that we are all only one disaster away from personal devastation. That no matter if a county line, bridge or water separates us, it only takes one crisis to bring us all together and remind us how much we need one another to survive in this one world.
“Every man is our brother, and every man’s burden is our own. Where poverty exists, all are poorer. Where hate flourishes, all are corrupted. Where injustice reigns, all are unequal.” – Whitney Young, American Civil Rights Leader