Andrea Lyons is Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Neighborhood Family Practice. PHOTO: Neighborhood Family Practice participates in a regional networking meeting. Credit: Consulado de México.
Neighborhood Family Practice (NFP) in Cleveland has a long-standing dedication and commitment to serving the Latinx/Hispanic community. Earlier this year, we decided to deepen that commitment by establishing a program to better serve and engage our Hispanic neighbors. The COVID-19 pandemic helped our staff and leadership realize there was potential to further our outreach through partnerships.
More than 40 years providing care in Cleveland, Ohio
NFP started in 1980 as a response to the lack of care options for a high number of residents who lived in poverty on the west side of Cleveland. In 2000, NFP gained official status as a federally qualified health center and has grown to seven locations serving a very diverse mix of residents.
Many of our Hispanic neighbors are from Puerto Rico. However, many come from outside of the country, too, including from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica.
The Hispanic community in NFP’s service area is large and continues to grow. During the 2020 census, there were over 45,000 people who identified as Hispanic. Our patient base is about 30% as well, making us a vital part of the community.
Lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic about serving Hispanic community
NFP’s experience during the pandemic made us aware of the need to better serve our Hispanic community and support health, wellness, and a connection to care and access. During the pandemic, we developed a collaborative of numerous Hispanic community leaders, partners, social service, faith-based and education organizations.
We met on an ongoing basis to connect the Hispanic community to accurate health education information on COVID. As a trusted partner, NFP developed in-language educational tools, small business outreach and support (e.g., COVID kits), presentations and much more to support the community.
When the vaccine became available, we worked closely with our partners, as a credible source of information, to help the community access the vaccine. We focused particularly on high-risk and high-need populations in underserved communities in the service area.
Supporting Latinx/Hispanic patients beyond the pandemic crisis
With ongoing support from partners, NFP recognized we needed to further support the Hispanic community. We created the Hispanic Engagement Coordinator position to demonstrate our commitment to serving our neighbors. In developing the position, we kept in mind that our goal is to lift the voices of our patients in a culturally appropriate and relevant manner.
Our Hispanic Engagement Coordinator, Jennifer Castellano, is a new point of contact and a recognized community leader. Partners and residents are confident in reaching out to connect with her. It is important for NFP to provide ongoing support and to offer access to care in a way that respects the culture of each patient.
Gaining an understanding of what Latinx/Hispanic patients need from Neighborhood Family Practice
In the early months after joining NFP, Castellano has focused on learning about the needs of patients the best way we can: by going directly to the source. She is conducting one-on-one listening sessions with staff who work directly with the Hispanic population, as well as shadowing our Spanish-speaking providers. Additionally, we are assessing patient needs from a survey that was conducted in Spanish.
New partnerships with the Latinx/Hispanic community
While NFP established important partnerships with Hispanic organizations during the pandemic, Castellano is now developing new relationships with partners, organizations and businesses serving the Hispanic community to connect them to care.
The goal is to position NFP as a trusted source of health education and information in the community.
How NFP practices cultural competency
“Cultural competency” is a term used frequently in our field. At NFP, we believe that cultural competency is achieved when you engage with communities to hear their voice, listen to their concerns, and support the solutions that they provide. The answers to community-based issues can be found with those who are closest to the problems. The role of NFP is to listen, learn, and lift up community perspectives.
We are fortunate to have a talented team that consists of passionate and engaged staff who talk with the community, know the community, and live in the community.
The Hispanic community appreciates a setting where they see people they can relate to and speak to in a relatable manner. As soon as a patient notices that our teammates speak Spanish, they are comfortable with raising questions and engaging on topics that can lead to breaking down barriers.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
This year, NFP will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with renewed energy. The focus, while on health and well-being, is also a celebration of culture and community. As part of our celebration, we are investing in marketing through La Mega, which is Cleveland’s Hispanic radio station. Key partners include the Spanish American Council, Step Forward, Julia de Burgos, and Esperanza.
Beyond getting people connected to care, this is about engaging the community we serve in the most impactful way.