Community health workers training course available at


May 4, 2011 
Media Contacts: 
Sally Kweskin,
Empire BlueCross BlueShield
(720) 373-4836
April 28, 2011 – New York – Empire BlueCross BlueShield is offering a free web-based course for community health workers in an effort to help reduce health disparities and empower patients. This course gives these important community resources tools to help patients communicate better with their doctors and more effectively navigate the healthcare system. This course is available in both English and Spanish. 
“We know that miscommunications sometimes occur between doctors and patients, especially when they don’t share the same cultural background,” said Grace Ting, Empire’s director of health equity and cultural and linguistic programs. “In those situations, there is the potential that patients and doctors aren’t getting the right information from each other so that patients receive the best care.”  
Minorities face significantly more difficulties in communicating with physicians than whites, according to The Commonwealth Fund 2001 Health Care Quality Survey. Thirty-three percent of Hispanics reported having one or more communication issues with their physicians, compared with 27 percent of Asians, 23 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of whites. 
"While many cross-cultural communication training programs exist for physicians and other health care professionals, there are few, if any, resources like this that directly impact and empower the patient,” said Dr. Joseph Betancourt, director of The Disparities Solutions Center for Massachusetts General Hospital. “This is important because an engaged and informed patient is an empowered patient who is likely to benefit more fully from what the health care system has to offer." 
The hour-long Guiding Patients to Better HealthCare training course developed by Empire, is aimed at health educators, such as nurses, certified patient educators, patient navigators, patient advocates, community health workers, and promotores del salud who often spend more time with patients and might be in a better position to influence how they work with their physician. 
One interactive component of the training focuses on role-playing between a doctor and a patient who are trying to work out how she can better control her diabetes. The goal of the role-playing exercise is to help the educator encourage the patient to successfully convey to her doctor the importance of her family’s support in everyday decisions, such as preparing healthy foods that they will also eat. 
“Different cultures view the role of family and community differently,” said Ting. “In typical culture in the U.S., adult patients generally make their own medical and healthcare decision whereas people from other cultures might look more to their family and their community for help in making a healthcare decision. Healthcare providers may get frustrated if they don’t understand this dynamic and the importance that others may play in helping to make these decisions.”  
In some cultures, showing respect may mean not asking questions of people who are seen as experts or in positions of authority, such as doctors. As a result, some patients may be uncomfortable asking their doctors questions that could be important to their successful medical treatment. The course offers communication tips to help patients share important medical and family concerns with the doctor. 
The course also provides a facilitator’s guide that helps the health educator deliver the content to patients, including worksheets that can help patients prepare for visits to their doctors. Other worksheets help patients understand their rights within the health care process and provide them information on where they can go to find out more about particular conditions and diseases. 
“Empire is pleased to provide this course as part of our mission to improve the health of our communities,” said Mark Wagar, President and CEO of Empire BlueCross BlueShield. “The course represents the cornerstone of our public health policy strategy to reduce health disparities and support patient empowerment and proactive medical consumerism.”  
To access the course, go to, choose New York from the state pull-down menu under ‘Providers,’ and then click the ‘Training’ tab. 
About Empire BlueCross BlueShield: 
Serving New Yorkers for over 75 years, Empire BlueCross BlueShield is the largest health insurer in New York supporting nearly six million members and more than 38,000 business, union and small employers in New York. Empire BlueCross BlueShield (Empire) is the trade name of Empire HealthChoice Assurance, Inc., and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO is the trade name of Empire HealthChoice HMO, Inc., independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, serving residents and businesses in the 28 eastern and southeastern counties of New York State. Additional information about Empire is available at Also, follow us on Twitter at, on Facebook at, or visit our YouTube channel at
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