Imagine that you have arrived in a new country and need medical care, but do not speak the local language and do not know how and where to get help. In recent weeks, thousands of migrants in the United States have found themselves in just such a situation after being transported from the southern border to communities across the country.
At VNA Health Care, one of the largest community health centers in the country with 16 locations in suburban Chicago, we were recently asked to provide care for migrants who have arrived in our area. In coordination with the state, local health department and other stakeholders, our team provided the most urgent care at the hotel where the migrants were staying using our mobile medical van and provided follow-up services at our clinics with transportation provided by the local YMCA. This type of grassroots work and collaboration is fundamental to the work of the CHC.
Funded by the Office of Medical Resources and Services, Health Centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers, have a primary mission to improve access to health care and reduce disparities in health status. Our efforts are always more effective when we work across the health continuum and involve the entire community. As evidenced by our recent experience in treating new migrants, emergency centres, hospitals, health systems, other health care institutions, community organizations and community leaders have a lot of experience working together. However, even more cooperation will be required to meet the future needs of an increasingly diverse and aging society.
Health care leaders know that the most effective treatment approach is based on best practices and takes into account cultural needs and preferences. In some communities, health care centers and health systems have developed clinical protocols for different health facilities, taking into account the customs and lifestyles of the different populations they serve. Measuring baseline information about health disparities, as well as the impact of our initiatives, is essential as we seek to eliminate factors that affect health.
There is a great opportunity for health organizations to work together to identify people with social determinants of health needs that might otherwise be missed, and then address those needs. One such example is identifying the homeless and developing care plans with the patient, hospitals and primary care providers. In the future, additional work at the community level will be critical. Health centers, other health organizations and local municipality and community leaders in some regions have come together to identify and address the root causes of homelessness. These creative collaborative initiatives have great potential to improve the health of individuals and society as a whole. Tools such as county health rankings and roadmaps, developed in collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Community Health Institute, will help inform the team’s future efforts.