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Social Impact Series: “Let’s Talk About ACP” Toolkit Equips Faith Leaders to Start Conversations about Advance Care Planning

Exploring the intersection of health and social factors to improve health outcomes can empower community members and spark innovative approaches to advancing health equity. As an organization committed to dismantling systemic barriers inhibiting historically marginalized groups from accessing quality healthcare, we are committed to advancing a policy agenda that centers health equity among its key components. Our Social Impact Series highlights innovative entrepreneurial ventures that are advancing health equity, addressing key components of our policy agenda, and transforming our field to improve the lives of all people living with serious illnesses. We got a chance to learn more from the leaders behind these innovative programs, and are sharing insights about their implications for our field.

We hope to steer our field toward a more equitable and just healthcare system; one where all people living with serious illness receive the quality, person-centered care they deserve. Advancing health equity and rooting out systemic racism and discrimination in healthcare requires us to think innovatively and act boldly. Dr. Gloria Thomas Anderson understands this urgent need and has leveraged her robust career as an advance care planning expert to create a program that underscores the importance of empowering and equipping communities to promote health.

The “Let’s Talk About ACP” project is a community engagement and education initiative for Black people on advance care illness preparation and end-of-life planning. The program utilizes a train-the-trainer model to equip faith leaders with the tools they need to carry out tough conversations around advance care planning (ACP) with the communities they serve.

As efforts to expand the use of advance care planning persist, so do the systemic inequities that inhibit historically marginalized groups from accessing it. As a means to overcome challenges barring conversation around end-of-life planning in Black communities, Dr. Anderson’s program is undeniably bridging systemically-derived gaps in ACP access, and empowering communities of color to take charge of their healthcare. “Let’s Talk About ACP” underscores the strong relationship between churches and Black communities to creatively normalize ACP conversations in a trusted setting. “The church is a trusted source that many Black people rely on for credible and culturally-relevant information…78% of Black people hold religious or spiritual beliefs that may influence decision-making around issues of healthcare and end of life,” says Dr. Anderson, “these two factors are primary for working directly with faith-based venues to effectively reach the beneficiaries of our initiative.”

The ACP program is effectively meeting communities where they are to make a difference in their healthcare experiences. Dr. Anderson shared that the results from a recent survey assessing “Let’s Talk About ACP” program participants’ attitude of readiness, confidence, and knowledge about advance care planning showed an increase in participants’ readiness to talk to their doctor and medical decision-maker, and readiness to sign official papers shifting from 73% to 89% and 80% to 100%, respectively. Additionally, participants’ confidence when talking to their medical decision-maker and their doctor about the kind of end-of-life medical care they would want shifted from 78% to 95% and 79% to 100%, respectively.

The “Let’s Talk About ACP” program primarily utilizes sponsorships from organizations purchasing ACP guides they can use to inform the people they serve about end-of-life planning, to provide the “Let’s Talk about” ACP toolkit to trusted faith and community leaders.

Dr. Anderson highlighted a key disparity she hopes to address: “Hospice and palliative care usage is considerably low for Black people at around 8%. Our goal is to partner with hospice organizations to address this disparity through sponsorship opportunities which provide the ACP toolkit to trusted faith and community leaders in their regions.” She adds insight on the type of organizations that are best positioned to get involved stating: “The type of organizations that would benefit most from purchasing and distributing the ACP guides are those who provide services to Black patients, caregivers, and families, specifically hospices, hospitals, and healthcare systems that are committed to dismantling inequitable access and treatment to people of color.” Organizations that engage in sponsorship have an opportunity to co-brand the ACP Guides to share their own services in partnership with these communities.

Innovative programs, like Dr. Anderson’s “Let’s Talk About ACP” toolkit, are needed to help rectify deeply-rooted inequities throughout our healthcare system and to ensure that all receive the quality care and services they deserve. The model proposed in this project uses an approach that centers community values and context to promote health and advance health equity. According to Dr. Anderson, “The ‘Let’s Talk about ACP’ project addresses the need to better serve underserved communities of color by being a part of the community, establishing trusted relationships with faith leaders, and providing a culturally responsive approach that encompasses the historical, cultural, and spiritual values many Black people embrace.”

Dr. Anderson shared why organizations should get involved in these innovative efforts to increase ACP utilization and advance health equity, stating: “Almost everyone agrees that there’s an urgent need to address health literacy related to end-of-life care in Black communities. Our initiative presents a meaningful equity opportunity through sponsorship funding that can help provide much-needed support to continue the work we’ve already started to solve these disparities.”

To learn more about how your organization can help support the “Let’s Talk about ACP” project, please visit www.eolacp.org or email info@eolacp.org. 

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