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Topics > Reducing Health Disparities Initiative > What We Are Doing > Ambulance Response and Cultural Issues

Ambulance Response and Cultural Issues

(L to R) EMS Director Art Lathrop, EMS Director of Operations Leslie Mueller, RHDI Leader José Martín

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has little direct patient contact, but oversees all the 911 ambulance response in the county. EMS Director Art Lathrop said initially he wasn't sure how the Reducing Health Disparities Initiative (RHDI) related to his program. When he checked the Institute of Medicine report on health disparities [full text from National Academies Press], he found it didn't include any discussion of pre-hospital issues like ambulance response.

A Question about Calling for Help

Lathrop said he wondered whether cultural issues might discourage some people from calling 911 when they needed help and whether responding paramedics were encountering cultural issues that might interfere with quality care.

Using interns Virginia Nguyen and Jennifer Lind from the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and working with RHDI Leader José Martín, staff conducted a literature review, which turned up almost nothing written about the impact of cultural issues on pre-hospital services. The interns also conducted focus groups with the community and interviews with responders.

Cultural Issues Emerge and Are Addressed

They discovered that most cultures in Contra Costa are familiar and comfortable with 911 but that there are communications issues. Patients don't always know when it's appropriate to ask questions, whom to ask and when to complain.

The next step is to develop a training curriculum to help paramedics deal with some of the cultural barriers. The County Fire Department is also interested in the project for their first responders. "I think this may be a first in the nation," says Lathrop.

For more information, call Art Lathrop at 925-646-4690.

Thanks to American Medical Response for providing gift certificates for community focus group participants and for providing access for paramedics to participate in the survey.

Content provided by the Reducing Health Disparities Initiative.

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