Last week, community health center leaders from around the country spoke at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference (ALC). Set in Washington D.C., the CBCF ALC gathers thousands of people together to discuss public policies impacting African Americans and black communities all over the world. NACHC was pleased to partner with host Congressman Danny Davis (IL-07), a community health center champion and co-chair of the House Community Center Health Caucus, to moderate his two hour session entitled, “Community Health Centers, Health Disparities, and Addressing the Social Determinants of Health.” Our panel consisted of health center staff from Baltimore, Chicago and New York, a medical doctor from the University of Chicago, and NACHC’s very own Research Director. The speakers included:
- Michelle Proser, PhD, MPP, Director of Research at NACHC
- Andrea Ruggiero, MPA, Director of Care Coordination Programs and Wellness Initiatives at Open Door Family Medical Center in Ossing NY
- Jenene Washington, MD, MBA, FAAP, Chief Medical Officer at Baltimore Medical System in Maryland
- Kameron Matthews, MD, JD, Chief Medical Officer at Miles Square Health Center in Chicago, IL
- Doriane Miller, MD, Director of the Center for Community Health and Vitality at the University of Chicago Medical Center
With the room at capacity, each speaker focused on why the unique health center model of care continue to play an integral role when facing health disparities in his or her community. The panelists spoke of addressing the social determinants of health within the work of the health center as well as the importance of creating partnerships with hospitals, health systems, and universities while engaging patients and surrounding communities to decrease growing health disparities.
The panelists emphasized the importance of community outreach, health education, data collection and designing interventions to address the underlying causes of poor health facing health center patients. Dr. Kameron Matthews, who earlier that day received the CBC Health Braintrust’s Louis Stokes Public Health Advocate Award described health centers as “a community-based and multispecialty approach to health care.”
Speakers from academia, health centers and NACHC each also emphasized the importance of advocacy to improving a community’s health. In the words of Congressman Davis (himself a proud health center patient), “we think we can overcome disparities, but not without advocacy.”
Thanks to the terrific panel, the CBCF and Congressman Davis for helping spotlight some of the Health Center Movement’s best and brightest!