Special Interest Section Profile: Underserved Populations in Headache Medicine
Name of Section Chair
Cynthia E. Armand, MD
Name of Special Interest Section
Underserved Populations in Headache Medicine
The American Headache Society is home to a diverse array of Special Interest Sections that connect members with shared expertise and interests to collaborate on research, develop practice models and provide multidisciplinary participation in support of the Society’s overall mission.
The goals of the Underserved Populations in Headache Medicine closely align with the Society’s mission to improve treatment options for all patients with headache disorders. Despite having an enhanced understanding of migraine, cluster headache and other headache disorders, there remains a large population of the patient community that is not receiving adequate treatment. Economic disparities and access to care are prominent factors that contribute to the gap among patients, and the Underserved Populations in Headache Medicine section is committed to identifying, understanding and ultimately serving these communities.
What is the mission of the special interest section?
Our mission is to identify underserved populations of patients with headache disorders. We are searching for the patient populations that may be receiving inadequate care for reasons outside of the more obvious factors, such as race or socioeconomic status. Once we identify these patient communities, our section tries to help them overcome the barriers they may face in terms of proper diagnosis and treatment of headache disorders.
Communication is crucial to our section’s mission. We encourage conversations among physicians to gather new information that can impact how patients are receiving treatment. The biannual AHS section chair meeting is incredibly helpful to our cause. Many of the physicians in attendance are from across the country and different parts of the world, so we serve different patient populations and individuals from various communities. Because of that, we all have our own versions of what “underserved” means. To some, it may mean “underinsured.” To other physicians it can mean “disabled” or describe patients who face obstacles with transportation to and from doctor’s visits. The goal of these conversations is to expand our working definition of underserved populations to account for those patients that aren’t immediately thought of as “underserved.” By doing so, we’re better prepared to develop action plans to ensure these patients start receiving adequate care.
What recent projects has your group been a part of?
In spring of 2018, an article titled, “Migraine Care Challenges and Strategies in US Uninsured and Underinsured Adults: A Narrative Review” was published in Headache®. The review was published in two parts, the first in April and the second in May. Part 1 identified the uninsured and underinsured individuals, and Part 2 spoke about the barriers that patients face, such as the cost of medications, socioeconomic status and challenges to becoming a patient. By that I mean the incidentals of being a patient that are often overlooked as barriers to treatment, such as finding a local physician that accepts the right insurance––if the patient has insurance––transporting oneself to and from doctor appointments, and so on.
What future goals does your special interest section have?
In my experience as a physician, underserved patient populations are predominantly located in inner cities. We have come to identify that lack of education is a common theme among these communities. One of the section’s short-term goals is to develop a plan to bring headache education to those communities. Ideally, members of our section would create short, digestible manuals on different barriers to adequate treatment and diagnosis. Then, we would utilize social media to circulate the resources and educational materials throughout the patient community.
Continuing headache education is a top priority for our section as well. Our goal is to create educational opportunities for underserved communities. This will help patients better understand their conditions and provide them with accurate information to refer to during appointments with their physicians. Ultimately, the resources our section develops will enable patients to be their own advocates.
How is your group making an impact in the field of headache medicine?
Our section is giving a voice to individuals who feel forgotten or alienated. It’s important for physicians to keep these patients in mind and help them get the care and treatment they need. Often, patients aren’t sure how to go about asking for help or they feel the treatments and medications are too expensive. Regardless, it’s our responsibility as physicians to guide patients through the process so they feel informed and included.
The Underserved Populations in Headache Medicine section is dedicated to improving care for all patients with migraine and headache disorders through communication among physicians and efforts to educate all patient populations.
If you are an AHS member who would like to join the Underserved Populations in Headache Medicine Special Interest Section, please contact us.