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Interview: Breaking Down Barriers To Healthcare

Women With A Vision

This week, students at the University of Nevada, Reno held a conference on how to make healthcare more accessible for everyone no matter their race, socioeconomic situation, gender identity, legal status, or anything else.

The school's Division of Health Sciences brought in Deon Haywood for that conversation. She runs a nonprofit in New Orleans that's been helping under-served populations for almost three decades. While in Reno, she caught up with our News Director Michelle Billman.

Women With a Vision was founded in 1989 by a group of African-American women who wanted to provide community support against the spread of HIV/AIDS. The nonprofit has grown to include a wide array of services to help victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse, those struggling with drug addiction, along with sex workers and the homeless. 

Executive Director Deon Haywood delivered the keynote address at this year's Cultural Considerations In Healthcare symposium at UNR, focusing on how future doctors and nurses can practice harm reduction for their patients. Harm reduction is any method or practice used to reduce risk of harm, a common example being clean needles programs that protect injection drug users from transmitting HIV. 

Haywood says this method offers tools--right now--to help a patient get through each day while that patient works on more global changes to her overall health and life situation. A key message Haywood had for UNR's future doctors is to recognize that every patient's needs are different, so effectively engaging with patients requires more than simply saying, 'Take your medicine.' 

"In this country, we have so many marginalized people and everyday people who are dealing with so much that care for self comes last," Haywood explained. "It's not so easy. If you live in a violent community, really, are you focused on taking your medication? No, you're trying to get your kids home and you're trying to be safe."

Our interview also touches on what specific barriers can keep someone from accessing healthcare, including the long-term impacts of historical trauma and documented physician biases.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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