National Health Center Week: August 4-10
story by Donna Tracy, Communication Coordinator, HopeHealth
Every August, HopeHealth joins a nationwide campaign to bring awareness to the nearly 1,400 health centers that are serving the health needs of underserved communities across the US.
This year, HopeHealth, along with the National Association of Community Health Centers and the Health Center Advocacy Network, celebrates the ways that health centers are Rooted in Communities. As part of the celebrations, HopeHealth invites you to take part in Advocacy Wednesday by visiting one of our Florence, Clarendon, or Williamsburg County locations on Aug. 7. Come discover how HopeHealth is rooted in your community and sign up to be an advocate for centers across the nation. Advocacy Wednesday is a signature advocacy event that exists to encourage staff, patients, and the community to show support for HopeHealth and other health centers by signing up to be a health center advocate.
How “rooted in community” are community health centers? The answer is, deeply. In 2017 alone, community health centers brought essential, quality health care to more than 28 million people in areas where it may otherwise not exist and bring innovative solutions to the most pressing community health care issues. At HopeHealth, the Population Health department continuously studies the behavioral and environmental elements that impact our communities and helps determine the specific needs in our areas. For example, HopeHealth has:
• Expanded the Diabetes and Nutrition Institute telehealth services so patients in Greeleyville, Kingstree, and Manning can attend Florence diabetes prevention and management programs from their local HopeHealth office. The Pee Dee area has some of the highest incidence rates for diabetes in the nation and two-thirds of all adults in South Carolina are considered overweight or obese, according to the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control.
• Adding integrated pain management, rheumatology, chiropractic, and behavioral health services to help better serve our communities and address the ongoing opioid crisis.
• Integrating behavioral health services with primary health care to address the behavioral health needs in our areas and reduce the stigma of seeking care.
• Opened facilities in communities like Greeleyville, S.C., where HopeHealth provided care for nearly 4,000 people in the surrounding area last year.
In the three counties HopeHealth serves as a community health center, more than 42,000 of your coworkers, family members, friends, and acquaintances have chosen to make HopeHealth their medical home.
“The advantages of a primary care home are much like playing football in your home stadium. You get to know your provider and your care team, and, more importantly, your providers get to know you and your health history,” said Dr. Edward Behling, HopeHealth chief medical officer. “Continuous care at a primary care home builds a long-term relationship between you and your provider that can help reveal ongoing health issues that might otherwise go unrecognized at a single doctor’s office visit. Such relationships lead to better communications and disease management, less risk of complications, fewer hospitalizations, and fewer visits to an emergency department.”
The roots of a community health center also blossom beyond the care individuals receive for their health. According to NACHC, CHCs created more than $54.6 billion in total economic activity in 2017 alone. In South Carolina, 23 health centers generated $5.13 for every dollar invested in health care programs and had an $855 million economic impact that included more than 3,400 full-time jobs at the centers and an additional 3,700 indirect jobs in their communities. In the Pee Dee, HopeHealth had a $95.3 million total economic impact in 2017 that included nearly $44 million in community spending.
The health center employees are also rooted in your community. They are the people who you sit next to at your daughter’s basketball game, see grabbing lunch at the local barbecue joint, getting their hair cut at the main street barbershop, or buying gas at the corner station. They are your community.
While National Health Center Week provides a time to focus on those ways we are rooted in our community, advocating for health centers is a year-round effort. Those unable to visit HopeHealth during Advocacy Wednesday can still show their support by signing up as an advocate at hcadvocacy.org. Periodically, advocates are asked to help reach out to legislative representatives regarding bills and initiatives that impact our centers and, in turn, our communities.
Ways you can support your community health center include:
• Making a community health center your health care home
• If you are a health center patient, using your center’s 340b pharmacies partners when filling prescriptions. HopeHealth’s pharmacy partners can be found on our website at hope-health.org/pharmacy, or listed in any patient room
• Donating to your area community health center
• Advocating for community health centers
Currently, advocates are asked to help communicate the importance of keeping health centers funded beyond the Sept. 30, 2019, funding cliff. HopeHealth’s business model includes a small portion of federal dollars that help support programs and services for patients who face barriers in accessing quality and consistent health care. While health centers have enjoyed bi-partisan support for their more than 50 years, funding is set to expire Sept. 30. Join us on Advocacy Wednesday or visit hcadvocacy.org to sign up as an advocate to support community health centers.
For more on the benefits of community health centers, visit the National Association of Community Health Centers at nachc.org or the SC Primary Health Care Association at scphca.org.
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