This Week is National Men’s Health Week

June is Men's Health Month

June is Men’s Health Month

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, Men’s Health Week (June 9-15) is the perfect time to remind the men around you of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Getting an adequate amount of exercise and eating properly are fundamental habits that foster overall health, but it is just as important for men to understand the value of preventive screenings aimed at controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Frequenting the gym and biking to and from work can cause heads to turn at the beach, but if preventive measures aren’t taken to secure one’s overall health then all your hard work on the bench press and elliptical will be done in vain.

The Affordable Care Act has made it easier to acquire the preventive services that are essential to overall health by covering recommended preventive services at no out-of-pocket charge. This means that the man in your life has no excuse to add preventive measures to his healthy lifestyle choices.

For men who routinely practice healthy living habits, use this week as reminder that your efforts are not futile. And for men who do not pay the necessary attention to their overall health, National Men’s Health Week is a great time to head to your local supermarket and buy some kale, make the trek to your local YMCA and partake in some wind sprints, and visit your local Community Health Center and request an immediate blood test. However, if the aforementioned measures sound a bit extreme there’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps.

Go get healthy and have a happy Father’s Day.

Let’s Not Reverse Course on Access to Care

Dr  Gary WiltzNACHC’s Board Chair, Gary Wiltz, MD, published the following commentary today in Modern Healthcare magazine.  Dr. Wiltz is the President and CEO of Teche Action Clinic in Franklin, LA.

As a young doctor, my first job was serving in one of the poorest and most rural parishes in Louisiana. I had a three-year commitment to serve with the National Health Service Corps, which, in return, paid for my medical education. Thirty-two years later, I’m still there, leading the same Community Health Center where I started. I chose to stay because access to care—a key issue in the ongoing national discussion—is a struggle for people in my community.

Yet, progress made so far to improve access to care in the nation’s fragile and rural communities is now threatened.

Some 62 million Americans lack access to primary care because of a variety of factors that include geography, income and a shortage of available doctors, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers. People from all walks of life are affected. Nearly half (42%) are low-income and 28% live in rural areas. Surprisingly, the vast majority do have health insurance.

People need both insurance and access to care. In my corner of Louisiana, we are open six days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. because our patients, who are low-income and often chronically ill, need care before and after working hours. By making access more convenient, we not only improve our residents’ well-being, but reduce unnecessary visits to hospital ERs by more than 40%.

The Affordable Care Act provided resources to double the size of Community Health Centers like mine. This critical funding is scheduled to expire after 2015. Without a fix from Congress, the centers face a 70% reduction in grant funding. The impact would be disastrous. Our clinic alone would be forced to shelve plans to open two needed clinic sites, close some sites and lay off staff. Over 3,000 patients would have to find care elsewhere, much farther away. Programs focused on growing the supply of primary-care providers also would be hurt.

Let’s not reverse course. Community Health Centers have delivered high returns on the investment for the past 50 years—improved access, cost savings and more jobs. This is a resource our nation cannot afford to squander.

Health Centers are the Focus at a Recent Briefing on Capitol Hill

photo 5Community Health Centers were the focus of a recent Capitol Hill briefing launched by the Alliance for Health Reform. The topic was the challenges and opportunities of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The briefing “Health Centers at the Launch of the Coverage Expansion” included panelists: Michelle Proser, NACHC ‘s Research Director;  Jordan Valley Health Center (Springfield, MO) President Brooks Miller; Heart City Health Center (Elkhart, IN) CEO Vernita Todd and Leighton Ku, Director of the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University.

The event revealed new findings from the Commonwealth Fund’s 2013 Survey of FQHCs. Some highlights include:

  • Health centers anticipated a shortage of workforce to meet the needs of the expected influx of newly covered patients. This included a shortage of physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. However, the Commonwealth Fund report noted that this is not a new concern for health centers and a recent report by NACHC showed 62 million people have little or no access to primary care.
  • Health centers have a hard time finding bilingual providers and those in rural areas have a harder time recruiting bilingual staff over those in urban settings.
  • Health centers have, and continue to prepare for, health system changes and the influx of new patients, including integrating new behavioral health, hiring new clinical staff and increasing IT capacity. 93 percent of health centers surveyed now have an EHR system, an increase of 133 percent from 2009.

The panelists all underscored the critical need for access to care.

“Insurance coverage is not enough to guarantee access to care. There will always be uninsured patients,” said  Michelle Proser.

If you missed the briefing you can watch it here.

Making healthcare accessible for women

NWHW-infographic-well-womanIt’s National Women’s Health Week (NWHW).   This is the time to encourage your mother, grandmother, or any loved one, to make their health a priority, whether it is physical or mental health. Taking simple measures,  like scheduling regular check-ups and preventative screenings, paying attention to one’s mental health, engaging in safe behaviors, getting active and eating healthy are several ways women can achieve wellness.

But there’s also help, too.   Local Community Health Centers are a good resource. Accessible and affordable, health centers provide a medical home for women and their families where they can receive quality care and achieve healthier lives.

In 2012 alone, for instance,  health centers  provided over 2 million pap tests to more than 1.8 million women.  More than 360,000 women also received a mammogram at a health center  for early detection and treatment of breast cancer.  Below are just a handful of examples of the many programs offered through more than 1,200 health centers across the country to over 22 million patients a year:

Family Care Health Centers’ (St. Louis, MO) Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) class that gives patients the education and tools they need to manage their weight and develop healthier eating habits;

Erie Family Health Center’s (Chicago, IL) breast and cervical cancer program that helps provide free mammograms, breast exams, pelvic exams and pap tests to uninsured women;

AltaMed Health Care Services (Los Angeles, CA) provides women a full spectrum of general health education classes that include smoking cessation, diabetes control, and healthy living, as well as comprehensive perinatal education that includes a postpartum depression (PPD) class that teaches women how to identify and cope with PPD.

Health centers work hard to provide the appropriate care for all of their patients. For women—who are often the caregivers in the family—this means reminding them to take some time for their own health needs and making it easy for them to access care when they need it.

To learn more about National Women’s Health Week and to pledge to be a well woman visit: http://womenshealth.gov/nwhw/. Also, join the conversation on Twitter by using the #NWHW.

 

New Data About Health Center Quality of Care

A new study in Health Services Research shows that patients, particularly those who do not have health insurance and receive care at Community Health Centers, have fewer hospitalizations.  They also receive similar or a better quality of preventive care compared to similar patients of non-health center primary care providers.

“These findings suggest that federally funded health centers could be a more efficient system of primary care especially for the uninsured,” said Neda Laiteerapong, M.D., the study’s lead author and assistant professor of medicine at University of Chicago. “The fact that patients in our study had fewer office visits and received similar or better quality of care could suggest that these centers do more preventive care per visit.”

Researchers looked at data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey between 2004 and 2008 for the study.  They analyzed data from a sample of adult patients who visited a health center over a two year period of time and compared it to the outcomes of non-health center patients.   In addition to fewer hospital visits, health center patients were also more likely to have received dietary advice and breast cancer screening.

Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), Washington D.C., also responded to the study saying “It verifies that if you have a coordinated care model, you can have better outcomes most of the time—this is a good example of where health reform is going.”  He also added, “We know only 10 percent of primary care wellness is about going to the doctor’s office,” he said. “It’s the behavioral things that matter and federally-funded clinics understand that very well

Also, since we’re talking about quality of care, it’s worth noting again that a previous study by  the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California-San Francisco, (July 2012)  found that health centers demonstrated equal or better quality performance than private practices on ambulatory quality measures, despite serving patients with more chronic disease and socieoeconomic complexity.