One of the most exciting things about serving in the healthcare sector is the innovation that arises to help address the ever evolving health needs of any given population. Population health, and the increasing integration of public health strategies into the traditional medical system, presents the opportunity for those who administer health care to think about ways to constantly improve. This is all in an effort to better the quality of life and the capacity for individuals to manage their health in the best way possible. On a personal note, this is what inspires to me to not only work towards earning a medical degree, but also a degree in public health or public policy. Through serving the communities within Advocate Trinity Hospital’s service areas and beyond that, as an AmeriCorps National Health Corps member, these experiences have shown me how important it is to look at health through a lens that encompasses the wholeness of a person- in mind, body, and soul.
It is with these ideals in mind that have given rise to a number of programs here at Advocate Trinity, a couple of which I have found particularly useful in aiding the patients that I encounter. They aim to increase the use of disease prevention and management strategies, as well as reduce the barriers to access of health services. First is a Diabetes Education Program run by Trinity’s diabetes educator, Rosie Bernard, RN. Ms. Bernard developed the program in an effort to aid those in the community who are struggling to or would like assistance with managing their diabetes. Some of my clients at the hospital and in the community reveal to me that although they have diabetes, unfortunately they grapple with how to manage their conditions properly. With the inception of this program, I have been able to refer a number of patients, and community members as well, to utilize this service- as it is just another tool available to help them live healthier lives.
Serving as a Community Health Worker means that I exist as the link between the patients and the healthcare system and services. As such, I realize every day how the barriers to accessing such services truly inhibit the ability for one to live life to the best of their ability. In particular, without insurance, many shy away from receiving the health services they need because of cost. Additionally, the complexity of Marketplace versus Medicaid versus Medicare can be confusing and daunting to many. In an effort to address this, Advocate Trinity Hospital has partnered with Patient Innovation Center, a company that deploys navigators into communities and assists people with signing up for a health insurance plan that fits their needs, as well as other services such as Medicaid redetermination and supplemental nutrition assistance program applications (food stamps). This partnership is invaluable to what I aim to do as a Community Health Worker because I realize how difficult it can be to access many healthcare services when someone is uninsured; this program has been able to help reduce that barrier.
In all, this service term has shown me that, when faced with adverse circumstances, the use of innovation and community partnerships opens up the possibility to create programming to address the needs of those we serve. It is through these efforts that we can continue to encourage and improve our community members to live healthier lives.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2016-17 member Ureka Ajawara.
Ureka is a Community Health Worker at Advocate Trinity Hospital.