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Thursday, May 13, 2010

It takes a community health center...

The recession has affected every American. But in Michigan, the effect of the recession is amplified. It has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. In addition, residents of Detroit, a city of over 900,000, don’t have access to a national full-service chain grocery store. Without jobs, many will lose health coverage. And without access to healthy foods (those in areas without grocery stores rely on fast food restaurants and convenience stores as their food sources), people are at higher risk for health conditions such as diabetes. This is a bad combination

Thankfully, community health centers help individuals and families in cities like Detroit to get the help and care they need to lead healthier lives despite setbacks and hardships. Typically located in medically underserved areas, community health centers provide culturally and linguistically appropriate care to all residents regardless of insurance status, citizenship status, or ability to pay. Community health centers play an important role in the U.S. health care safety net, especially for communities of color, such as those in Michigan. The writers of the health reform law recognized this and, therefore, the law appropriates $11 billion in funding to community health centers for the services they provides and for the construction and renovation of their facilities.

Recently, the Minority Health Initiatives department at Families USA had the opportunity to visit a community health center in Dearborn, Michigan, located just outside of Detroit. Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) is a community health and research center that provides services to the Arab American community, as well as the greater community. They believe “keeping people healthy is the first step to success.”

I was truly impressed by the range of services that ACCESS provided the community. ACCESS’s commitment to the community’s well-being takes into account the whole person–mind, body, and soul. They operate in just two buildings—one building is dedicated to assisting the community with social services (such as employment, training, education, and immigration services), and the other building is the community health center that provides a host of health care services. In addition, ACCESS uses their research and advocacy work to learn about the needs of the community it serves (for a copy of ACCESS’ annual report, click here).

The culturally appropriate and holistic approach to serving the community’s health needs is what I found most incredible. Not only does research and advocacy work take place here, but ACCESS is able to provide individuals with mental health services, primary care services, cancer screenings, children’s health services, women’s health services, pharmaceutical services, and family counseling services. At ACCESS, research and advocacy work hand-in-hand with health and social services to provide community members with everything they need to lead healthy lives.

ACCESS empowers the individual by providing them with the resources and tools to enhance their own well-being. A true safety net with a holistic approach, ACCESS is an incredible model for community health centers nationwide. For more information on ACCESS, please click here.