Improving Health Care Access for Underserved Communities: Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center’s “Free to be Healthy” Diabetic Education Program provides patients an education on their illness and collaboratively makes a plan with them, helping them change unhealthy aspects of their lives.
With the recent news of the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, access to quality healthcare is top of mind for many Ohioans. The HealthPath Foundation of Ohio supports organizations such as the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center (JCFSHC) that work to improve health care access for underserved populations.
JCFSHC is the only established agency in Jefferson County that serves the medically uninsured with free quality healthcare. JCFSHC’s “Free to be Healthy” Diabetic Education Program provides education materials, testing supplies, and a full-time nurse to 80 patients who are enrolled in the program. Additionally, many more have been screened and provided education on obesity and eating a lower cholesterol diet.
“Our Free to be Healthy Diabetic Education Program was formed in 2012 after our team realized 24% of patients had been diagnosed with diabetes or metabolic syndrome,” said Ann Quillen, executive director, JCFSHC. “Diabetes is a huge health concern in Ohio, as the Central Ohio Diabetes Association estimates that more than 897,000 Ohioans have the disease.”
The grant from HealthPath helped provide initial health screenings for patients, including blood glucose testing, blood pressure reading, HBA1C, lipid and triglyceride profiles, weight and abdominal girth measurements, and a quality of life assessment. Nurses and doctors have also been able to provide patients with an interdisciplinary care plan to include medication therapy management, patient education, obesity treatment, meal planning, foot and eye care, and follow-up appointments.
As a result of the program, lives have been saved, chronic conditions have been cared for, physical health and patients’ well-being have been improved, and, in many cases, a sense of hope has been restored to the patients of JCFSHC.
One life that has been saved because of JCFSHC and the “Free to be Healthy” Diabetic Education Program is a woman in her mid-50’s named Catherine. After not feeling well for a period of time, she went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with diabetes. She wasn’t expected to live longer than six months because she lacked insurance coverage and as a result didn’t have access to medication she needed.
Catherine decided to move closer to her family and found work at the JCFSHC through the Community Action Council in Steubenville, Ohio, to support herself. After a short period of time, she told the doctors and staff about her health problems and was immediately seen by a nurse practitioner to be officially diagnosed and provided medicine to treat her diseases. From there, Catherine went to health classes and follow-up appointments and was connected to other services within the community for further assistance and quality care. Today, Catherine is healthier and managing her illnesses because of the assistance she’s received from the Health Center.
The JCFSHC recognizes that in the absence of insurance coverage, many individuals are letting their health issues go untreated, which can lead to serious medical consequences. JCFSHC believes that people without insurance deserve quality, compassionate health care – regardless of their ability to pay. A healthy community is a productive community.