Cedars-Sinai Blog

Meeting Older Adults Where They Are

A home nurse aid assisting an elderly woman at home.

Led by Cedars-Sinai nurse scientists, a study that uses evidence-based strategies to help older adults maintain their independence and decrease their need for health services will add language translation services to the program following a $50,000 Health Equity Innovation Fund Award.

The Elders Preserving Independence in the Community, or EPIC, study recently received the new award from the AARP Center for Health Equity through Nursing and the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The awards are given to projects aimed at eliminating structural inequities, particularly structural racism, in nursing services for those most affected by health disparities.

Opportunity to meet the needs of older adults

Cedars-Sinai Health System is one of only 16 in the nation to receive one of these awards.

"Language barriers create health disparities by restricting access to preventive health and health promotion services. Low-income older adults are especially hard hit," says Harriet Aronow, PhD, principal investigator and a research scientist at the Geri and Richard Brawerman Nursing Institute

"Older adults are more likely to need multiple medications and to cope with health issues, chronic conditions and disabilities."

"The award from the AARP Center for Health Equity through Nursing will allow us to implement and evaluate virtual interpreter services in the nursing intervention of EPIC.  We will produce evidence and a guide for using virtual interpreters to bring preventive services into the community to promote population health," says Aronow.

The EPIC program started with a $2.3 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and is spearheaded by Aronow and Bernice Coleman, PhD, ACNP-BC, director of Nursing Research at the Brawerman Nursing Institute.

"Older adults are more likely to need multiple medications, to cope with health issues, chronic conditions and disabilities," says David Marshall, JD, DNP, RN, senior vice president and chief nursing executive at Cedars-Sinai

"They want independence, and they don’t want to be a burden on their families. As nurses, we have an opportunity to find ways to meet their needs and extend their independence in innovative ways that meet them where they are in their homes and neighborhoods. This award both extends our ability to continue this important health equity work and validates the important work Dr. Coleman, Dr. Aronow and their team have been doing with EPIC."

Bridging the gaps in access

The new award will allow EPIC to use computer-based technology to move hospital-based interpreter services into home and community settings.

"A program like EPIC has so many impacts on improving the health of our community," says Alan Dubovsky, vice president and chief patient experience officer at Cedars-Sinai

"On our campuses, we take great pride in doing everything we can to ensure all our patients receive the best possible care no matter what language they speak. This award allows us to extend that same commitment beyond the walls of our campuses and bridge the gaps in language access."

Removing the language barrier

More than 200 languages are spoken in Los Angeles County, and more than half of its residents speak a language other than English, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Interpreter services are essential resources for connecting with patients, says Jonathan Vickburg, LMFT, associate director of Community Health Improvement at Cedars-Sinai.

"Language is always one of the first barriers to connecting with people," Vickburg says. "By offering interpreter services, people feel seen and heard. We cannot begin to overcome health disparities and provide health equity if we cannot first speak to people who need our help."