As a boy growing up at 45th and Westminster in the heart of West Philadelphia, I often visited the Philadelphia Department of Public Health: Health Center 4. I remember simply referring to it as “the clinic.” It was where I received my immunizations, well check-ups, and got my summer camp waivers signed. I did all the things there that you would do at a “regular doctor.”
It wasn’t until later in life that I realized my doctor’s office was actually the local free clinic. You know, “the place that poor people go to.” The crowded and noisy center where, if you were fortunate enough to get an appointment, you would rarely see the same doctor twice.
Public Health Center 4 was not an ideal delivery system for health services, but it was there, and my mother took advantage of it. Unfortunately, some kids are not as lucky as I was. The average wait time in large cities to see a doctor is about 24 days. Couple this with poorer neighborhoods that have fewer health care providers and those wait times can skyrocket.
Access to Care: A National Chronic Condition
“Access to care” is not just a hip term to throw out in board meetings. It’s a reality for people in inner-city neighborhoods around this country. Researchers have concluded that the lack of access to basic screenings and preventive services often causes higher rates of chronic conditions. This is especially true for children and seniors.
If there was ever a cause for public, private, and community partnership…this is it. Access to health care remains one of the most important issues to U.S. citizens. It continues to be a national hot button for both conservative and liberal politicians and pundits. However, in the face of this challenge, there is an opportunity for creative solutions, with legislators, providers, payers, and the community working together to expand health care access points and access opportunities.
Establishing Health Care Access Points
In my role as leader of the community development team at Independence Blue Cross, I am working to develop out-of-the-box partnerships that expand these health care access points. Recently, we established a relationship with String Theory Schools, and their CEO Ken Detweiler, to use the school facilities as community hubs. At these hubs, we offer children, teachers, parents, and even grandparents access to resources to help improve their health and well-being.
Through one of these events, we uncovered multigenerational needs for health care coverage as well as basic health and wellness support. This type of partnership allows us to extend the reach of our mission and resources through trusted community stakeholders.
Making A Difference Where It Matters Most
Mahatma Ghandi once said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” The lack of access to health care for the poor and the underserved represents a step in the wrong direction for our nation.
This issue is close to me because I was one of those neighborhood kids, but it must be important to us all, as we all have a stake in the health of our children, seniors, and community.
This blog was originally published on LinkedIn.