National Public Health Week: Eliminating Health Disparities in Erie’s Communities
April 8, 2010 | Steph
Earlier this week, Beats Per Minute took you into the world of a very important public health issue: health disparities in underserved communities. Cancer, diabetes and oral health – all of these issues hit very close to home for the communities served by Erie Family Health Center. For Erie, creating a healthier America begins at the community level, where care and prevention interventions are specifically designed to meet the needs of our patients and community members. Today, in honor of National Public Health Week, Beats Per Minute would like to give you the inside scoop on those Erie programs designed to reduce and eliminate health disparities experienced in our community.
For the patients in Erie’s communities, early screening for breast and cervical cancer can be problematic, especially for those who are underinsured or uninsured and without the funds to pay for the procedures. Erie has a long-standing commitment to educating women on the importance of getting screened and working to provide better access for screening, either through Erie or external referrals. In early 2008, Erie became a lead agency for the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP). Through this program, Erie can provide either through our facilities or outside agencies free screening for breast and cervical cancers to women who qualify for the program. In the first half of this fiscal year alone, Erie enrolled nearly 400 women in the IBCCP program and provided culturally competent education about the importance of screening to nearly 12,000 people.
Erie is committed to providing all of our patients with evidence-based programs that result in the highest quality of care to our patients. As such, in January 2009, Erie piloted a group visits model of care for our diabetic patients called the Comprehensive Diabetes Control Program. This new program, which has recently been expanded to serve patients at our two largest sites, includes two main components: 1) group medical visits where patients can receive health education, engage in discussion and form peer relationships and 2) private medical visits between a diabetic patient and their provider. Through these efforts, patients are given the tools and guidance needed to manage their condition. In fact, 74% of Erie’s diabetic patients had their blood sugar under control in 2009.
Oral health has been and continues to be an important health issue that goes largely unnoticed by mainstream media. At Erie, though, the link between oral health and overall wellness has not gone unnoticed. Erie’s two dental centers are state-of-the-art facilities that provide oral health care to children, pregnant women, diabetics and patients living with HIV/AIDS, as well as the nuclear family members of these patients. Erie’s oral health program focuses on preventive care, such as sealants and comprehensive education about proper dental maintenance in order to create long-term oral health care status after a patient has completed their initial treatment plan. Erie’s program has been incredibly successful since its start in 2005 and was recently awarded the Oral Health Champion Award by the National Network for Oral Health Access.
Erie, like all community health centers around the nation, is working hard to reduce and eliminate the many health disparities that are found in the communities that we serve. We hope that many have taken this week to recognize the public health efforts that work to create a healthier America, one community at a time.