September 25, 2015 - This past week, I was privileged to attend the 2015 Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Foundation. My favorite piece of the conference was the CBC Health Braintrust! There was a vibrant discussion about health disparities and inequalities, with representation from various components of the healthcare system. I was impressed by the thoughtful discussions that were initiated within this Braintrust. There was also avid discussion about the 2015 Kelly Report: Health Disparities in America, led by Congresswoman Robin Kelly, which reviews various elements of the healthcare system and barriers to care.
Of particular note, there were sessions that explored the role of the community health center (CHC) model in the delivery of care. There are various types of CHCs, but speaking broadly, CHCs have been able to integrate healthcare delivery with methods to combat socioeconomic barriers to care. By broadening the range of services delivered, CHCs are able to consider the general factors that impact access to care and medical compliance. This approach, which is often accompanied by the physical proximity that CHCs have to populations in need, often strengthens the trust that CHC care providers have with the communities and individuals that they serve.
In the context of disaster and emergency preparedness, it has been long established that trust is a vital part of disaster communication. Messages about necessary emergency measures are best received when delivered by trusted stakeholders in order to yield rapid response and action. This is why our team is especially focused on partnering with CHCs to learn more about their emergency planning efforts, as well as their ability to communicate with the populations which they serve. Risk communication must happen at the local/community level in order to assure that the critical messages reach those who stand to be most negatively impacted by a disaster. Our team believes that reaching into the local level is a vital part of healthcare preparedness, and CHCs are clearly a critical part of the solution.