A recent poll found that one-third of individuals in the U.S. did not know that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare were the same thing. Such disconnects between policy and popular culture indicate the real potential for future misunderstanding of any other health care related laws and policies that are enacted.
To get the most from whatever care is available, we must pay closer attention to how our governments shape, fund, provide and manage health care. Trying to understand these concepts and issues is not always easy for each of us to do alone and talking with each other can help us to clarify the murkiness that policy seems to create.
With that in mind, several community groups in Galveston have spent time over the past two years learning about various health related issues, policies and practices. Under the aegis of the Sealy Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the Community Bioethics Dialogues have been held with four Galveston-area community groups since 2015: St. Vincent’s House; a combination of the Galveston Alliance of Island Neighborhoods and the Galveston Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association; the Galveston Island Community Research Advisory Committee; and the local League of United Latin American Citizens.
The dialogues are dynamic two-hour discussions that take place over the course of six weeks in which community members review theme related materials and then gather to discuss them, enabled by a moderator of their choosing. The first round of dialogues in 2015 asked participants to consider how patients want to be treated and what they expect from their caregivers.
The second round of dialogues in 2016 considered a theme the groups chose themselves: Mental Health and Seniors. The topic was honed to specific concepts and “experts” were recruited to present current thinking on each topic. These were followed by fruitful discussions in which community members became empowered to teach others in their families and neighborhoods about mental health issues.
At the end of each dialogue period participants wrote a report outlining their core values concerning various elements of health care.
The dialogues demonstrated the level of impact discussions can have when neighbors get together to consider critical issues that affect communities and families. Two participants took the information gleaned from the sessions to their church and families by creating a pamphlet identifying the issues they felt their children and friends needed to know as they age. Another participant held a session for the residents at a senior apartment complex on the mainland to teach them about the importance of advance care planning.
We are excited to announce that future opportunities will be available for other community groups to participate in similar bioethics dialogues in and around Galveston County. The topic of “Health Care, Aging, and End of Life” will be held as part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute fall 2017 course offering. If your church or community group is interested in sponsoring a community bioethics dialogue on health care issues, contact Dr. Jerome Crowder, email@example.com or Dr. Peggy Determeyer, pdeter meyer@hopeandhealingcen ter.org.