Community Health Centers Offer Solutions to Problems Raised by Task Force
Oklahoma City, OK — Members of the Healthcare Working Group met on Wednesday at the State Capitol to identify ways the state can increase access to health care coverage and improve health outcomes. Legislators from both parties and chambers gathered for a presentation from the State Department of Health about the factors that contribute to Oklahoma’s poor outcomes.
It comes as no surprise to community health center providers that three behaviors contribute to 65% of deaths in Oklahoma each year. Tobacco use, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions that are expensive to treat and lead to premature death. At community health centers, primary care providers focus on treating the root of people’s health care problems, not just their manifestations. Counseling patients on tobacco cessation, nutrition, and the need to stay active saves money while saving lives. Identifying and treating patients’ underlying issues requires building a relationship and developing trust.
“So much of our health is determined by decisions made outside the exam room. Patients who feel like their providers are genuinely invested in helping them live better lives are more likely to adopt healthier behaviors,” said Dee Porter, CEO of the Oklahoma Primary Care Association. “Health centers are focused on healing the whole person and encouraging patients to take an active role in managing their health.”
By delivering patient-centered care and offering comprehensive, coordinated care, community health centers stave off complications that can become serious and harder to treat. Early screening and detection means catching potentially life-threatening conditions before they get worse. Offering diabetes prevention program services to a prediabetic patient or counseling a patient with depression can dramatically improve patients’ quality of life drastically decrease their long-term health care costs.
Oklahoma has long struggle with poor health outcomes, but we should recognize existing practices that are working to turn the tide. Community health centers are a bright spot in our health care system and are a proven investment. As we work to identify how to improve access and outcomes, we should look for existing solutions to the problems at hand.