Local view: Health centers transform careThere is a lot of confusion and misinformation about how the world of health care is changing around us. But here is what is important to know: More people will have more options for affordable, primary-care services, and community health centers are expanding into more neighborhoods where people live and work, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”
By: Mavis Brehm, Duluth News Tribune
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about how the world of health care is changing around us. But here is what is important to know: More people will have more options for affordable, primary-care services, and community health centers are expanding into more neighborhoods where people live and work, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”
Health centers have been around for more than 45 years and are the family doctor to more than 22 million people, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers. The care at a health center is both excellent and affordable, good news for working families who struggle with medical debt or the millions who forgo health care or prescriptions because they are worried about cost. AARP’s magazine recently cited health centers as the No. 1 option “for good health care when you’re uninsured.” But health centers also are a provider of choice for people who are insured and value having an affordable health-care home.
Good health care starts with having a team of caring professionals on your side. As CEO at Lake Superior Community Health Center, I witness every day the value we bring to patients’ lives. When people have a place to go for regular care they use it and stay healthy and out of hospitals. I see patients controlling their diabetes, a patient whose life was saved by a simple test, and a dental patient who has been given back some confidence by feeling she can smile again. I am proud of our record and accomplishments.
With local solutions and by working together we health centers have reduced income and ethnic health disparities nationwide, even in the poorest and most challenged communities; produced $24 billion in annual health system savings; reduced unnecessary hospitalizations and unnecessary visits to the ER; and provided a system of preventive medicine that patients use regularly, improving health outcomes.
The services we provide onsite at two convenient locations in West Duluth and in Superior — primary health care, dental care, mental-health services and access to affordable medications — allow our patients to get the care they need under one roof and in a place where they are treated as individuals, with dignity and respect.
This is what health care should be: simple and patient-centered. Public health improves when the gateways of affordable, primary health care open to more people. This is what we mean when we talk about transforming our health-care delivery system and shifting the emphasis from disease management to prevention.
As someone who works on the front lines of health care, I invite everyone to come see the transformation at your local community health center. In your backyard is where the work of transforming health care already has started — for the good health of everyone.
Mavis Brehm has been CEO of Lake Superior Community Health Center since 2011 and has more than 20 years of executive leadership experience in community-based and hospital ambulatory health care.