Index Indicator Blog Series: Community Health Centers Can Ensure Health Access•
While most recent conversations about health reform have focused on “Obamacare,” the health insurance reform passed by Congress in 2009, an equally important issue is the lack of adequate access to health care. Even with insurance, geography plays a role, as it can be difficult to access quality health care services from many rural communities and even in urban areas with large hospital networks.
Community and socio-economic factors have a tremendous influence on the health and appropriate medical treatment of Americans. Community health centers integrate medical work into a larger portfolio of community activism and presence. These centers adopt a multi-lingual and multi-ethnic model centered on treating patients within a community context, with an inclusive view of social, cultural and economic factors.
While community health centers are less well-known than private practice, this approach has been shown to work. Their costs of care are among the lowest of any type of health care practice, and they reduce the need for expensive emergency care, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers. A study by UC San Francisco, Stanford and Johns Hopkins compared how doctors in community health centers and private practices performed against accepted standards of care. On six of 18 measures, community health centers bested some selected private practices; on the other 12 measures, they were competitive.
Some community health centers operate in the best of both worlds, combining their community focus and care model with access to large health care networks, allowing patients to transfer seamlessly into the traditional hospital system when they need emergency care or surgery. One such health center, just around the corner from the Opportunity Nation Boston offices, is the Bowdoin Street Community Health Center, which is also an Opportunity Nation coalition partner.
The Bowdoin Street Community Health Center offers cradle-to-grave care from a multicultural staff of physicians and practitioners within a context of community activism on issues such as public safety, access to affordable and healthy food, recreational opportunities and job creation. They accept most insurance plans, and will see patients regardless of their insurance status. In addition to appointments, they offer weekday morning walk-in hours. Tied to the reknowned Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, BSCHC’s medical care is at the highest level of quality.
For more information on supporting BSCHC and their programs, visit their website.
Opportunity Index Dimension: Community Health and Civic Life
Indicator: Access to Health Care
Measure: Primary care providers per 100,000 population
Source: County Health Rankings analysis of data from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources, and Services Administration, Area Resource File.
Rationale for inclusion: Inaccessible medical care directly results in declines in health. Not only do financial and spatial hindrances prevent individuals from obtaining adequate medical attention after they begin to suffer from an illness or injury, but these conditions also impede preventative care. People in poor health are less able to create and seize opportunities.