Barriers to Healthcare in Southwest VA
Beginning in the Spring of 2015, I partnered with Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems to begin to determine the barriers to healthcare as experienced by the local migrant farmworker community and those over the age of 55. I crafted a survey of ten questions that was distributed to both communities. I then collected and compiled this and used data analysis software. I plan to share the findings with Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems in the hopes that the findings can eventually be used to improve access to care in the area. Throughout this project, I encountered multiple hurdles that required not only immense calling upon "social capital" and existing community resources(as per the Asset Based Community Development model) but also multiple adjustments of my expectations for the project. While my more tangible goals of having a reasonable sample size of surveys from each of the polled communities and having significant data analysis to share with Southwest Virginia Community Health Systems were not necessarily met, the more abstract yet equally important goal of true community engagement was most certainly met. As I struggled with the initial realization that my planned outcomes and measurements(as discussed in the "Achieving and Measuring Community Outcomes" article) would not be met, I pulled heavily upon the "Soul of a Citizen" reading on coping with burnout and a shift in energy in order to reorganize internally around the project. In my external reorganization I utilized the "Community Toolbox: Sustaining the Work" subsection on "Clarifying the Goal and Sustaining the effort" in order to find the necessary shifted trajectories to continue the project. In balancing both the internal and external process of this engagement project, I was able to internalize the lessons in culture and communication that I received in abundance throughout the semester. I was allowed precious time with two frequently marginalized communities. I was invited quite frequently to share in their personal health narratives and immense vulnerabilities. I was also invited to share meals, stories, and joy with them. In these moments I found "social capital" and soul fuel in spades. In regard to outcome and tangible human gain, I collected a total of 30 surveys, 21 from the 55+ community and 9 from the migrant farmworker community. While these are not large enough to be sample sizes representative of the populations, there is potential for more surveys to be acquired and for the work to continue. The prevailing feedback from both populations were issues of transportation, translation(or in the case of the 55+, comprehension and adherence) and finance. Even with this somewhat limited feedback, there is insight and value within the collected responses and the sharing of narratives.
Literature Review on Healthcare Access in Southwest VA & Healthcare Access Survey