The Office of Health equity is working to address health disparities by improving health systems and building capacity within Maine’s public health infrastructure. In 2012, the Maine Center for Disease Control went through an agency-wide Cultural Competence Assessment and OHE is working to put into action the recommendations that were created based on the assessment findings.
The 2012 Cultural Competence Assessment Recommendations are as follows:
Leadership and Awareness:
Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS)
- Share the recommendations of the assessment with the staff of the Maine CDC.
- Conduct a review of all programs that either deliver or contract deliver personal services (including Maine CDC hotlines) and ensure that they meet the CLAS standards.
- Develop a Maine CDC Language Access Plan using four-factor analysis assessing the need for interpreter and translation services and plans to ensure that communication barriers are being met.
- Develop a senior-level health equity council to identify and propose strategies to address health disparities.
- Set priorities for action based on the results of the Maine Public Health Equity Profile (See recommendation under "Understanding the Population".)
Developing Competencies for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services
- Ensure that all program managers and staff who work with the public have in-person hands-on training how to access both telephonic and interpreter services for LEP and sensory impaired persons.
- Develop staff competencies on cross-cultural communication that are based on CLAS standards and tied to the evaluations of both program managers and staff who work with the public.
- Develop hands -on works hops and support for staff in all divisions who work with public health data to learn how to identify and address disparities.
Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Workforce
- Maintain Human Resource demographic profile to monitor trends in hiring and retention of racial and ethnic diverse staff.
- Revisit internal non-discrimination policies and EEOC procedures, and make policies and procedures easily available to all staff.
Promoting Internal Communication and Transparency
- Conduct Maine CDC -wide "town halls" annually at a minimum to allow staff to raise any concerns and propose solutions to any barriers to collaboration between divisions.
Understanding the Population:
- Issue an annual Maine CDC Vulnerable Population Demographic Profile (VPDP) that highlights growth trends of vulnerable populations by demographic; and lists the top ten languages spoken by LEP persons (by percentage and number). Make the profile available on the Maine CDC website in the top languages of LEP persons in Maine (to be updated annually).
- Release an annual Maine Public Health Equity Profile that highlights health disparities of vulnerable populations across the State of Maine. Make the Maine Health Equity Profile (MEHEP) available on the Maine CDC website in the top languages of LEP persons in Maine (to be updated annually).
- Cross–reference the VPDP and the MEHEP with each other annually.
- Develop protocols and supports to ensure that each division is developing their own health equity profile, to be updated annually.
- Revise REL data collection policies and mandate trainings to ensure that all staff and contractors who collect data are collecting REL data uniformly.
- Ensure staff has pathways to anonymously report any concerns regarding the validity of data collection to the Maine CDC Health Equity Council.
Engaging and Developing Programming for Vulnerable Populations:
- Establish clear policies for engaging with vulnerable populations to limit lag time and ensure that all staff is enabled to engage with diverse stakeholders. Post this policy on the Maine CDC website.
- Using annual demographic profiles of the state by age, dis ability, poverty level, and REL (race, ethnicity, and language spoken at home) to inform process of bringing more stakeholders from the state's vulnerable populations to the table.
- Develop a policy and outreach plan to:
- Engage vulnerable populations in all efforts that involve them, including in implementing any outward-reaching recommendation in this report.
- Encourage engagement with populations who lack key stakeholders; encourage reaching out to multiple diverse stakeholders.
- Publish a public health equity report annually and share (national and local) health equity data with those same vulnerable populations across Maine to involve them in planning for both messaging and strategies.
Communication and Information Exchange:
Ensuring Access to Interpreter Services
- Develop Maine CDC policy and procedures for language access that include protocols for ensuring culturally appropriate communication, including both written communication and oral communication (including on incoming calls ).
- Monitor and compile trends of agency usage of interpreter services annually or more frequently. Issue an annual report of us age annually, noting top languages and any gaps, and make available on the Maine CDC website.
- Evaluate interpreter services being used to ensure that services are meeting needs of all health functions and that services are timely and easily accessible.
Ensuring Clear and Actionable Written Communication
- Evaluate protocols and resources pertaining to translation of materials into other languages. Establish new protocols to ensure ready access and reduce wait-time.
- Develop an internal procedure for plain-language review of written communications.
- Develop an internal procedure for cross-cultural/language review of documents targeted to diverse populations.
- Provide opportunities for staff training in procedures for plain-language review of written communications that includes how to prepare documents for translation.