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Local Community Organizations Play Central Role in Future of Health Care Reform

Today, Illinois Health Matters launched Neighborhood Stories-- the third release in an

ongoing multimedia series. This installment reveals through video and investigative journalism the importance of community based organizations, such as neighborhood health centers and grassroots health coalitions. Such organizations provide a variety of comprehensive services to people in underserved communities, such as the South and West Sides of Chicago, who often do not have health insurance or access to quality, affordable care.

In “Community-Based Organizations Play a Critical Role in Reform,” author Jeffrey Steele finds community organizations act as a vital link between the federal level ACA, the state-level policies that result from the act, and the people who will benefit from the new health care law. Steele describes various ways that the trusted and respected individuals who work in community-based organizations, deemed "mother hens" by Celine Woznica, program director for the Asian Health Coalition in Chicago, can help with the implementation of the ACA. These "mother hens" are recognized community resources, providing answers to a range of questions, from where to go for a flu shot or citizenship classes. “These staff are the very people who have to be well versed on the Affordable Care Act, and how to help people take advantage of it -- from preventive care to the health exchange.”    

Community organizations are integral to distributing accurate information about the health reform process. At Erie Neighborhood House, a west side social service organization and community service agency, they are focusing on more “in person” workshops while other groups may utilize ethnic media and webinars. As Jim Duffett, Executive Director of Campaign for Better Health Care, sums up, “The more people who take ownership at the local level, the stronger we’ll all be in winning comprehensive reform.”

The video, “Wellness on the West Side,” by Jay Dunn, profiles the story of Eliazar Mejia, a woman diagnosed and treated for diabetes at Lawndale Christian Health Center (LCHC). LCHC is a shining example of “coordinated care” – where they provide a multitude of different types of care and programs all in one place. Many people who do not have insurance, such as the 38% of LCHC’s patients, end up letting a health problem develop and worsen until it sends them to the emergency room. LCHC fills the gap between no care and the emergency room for its 60,000 patients. Bruce Miller, the CEO of LCHC, sums up the organization’s overall commitment to its patients: “Our goal as a community-based organization is to provide care for everybody who needs care. Whether they have insurance, whether they don’t have insurance, we’ve never cared. So, as we think about the future, what the impact could be of health care reform, it’s our hope certainly, that many of our uninsured patients will have…better access to care, and will use that care more frequently.”

“Wellness on the West Side” is just one in the Neighborhood Stories series, presented by Illinois Heath Matters. Previous videos profile individuals and families, small businesses, and the importance of a consumer-focused health policy in Illinois. All videos and articles are featured in the “Neighborhood Stories" section of the Illinois Health Matters website, along with articles that share how community organizations, including Health & Disability Advocates, local Chambers of Commerce and others are educating and informing underserved groups about their health care coverage options under the new law. The multimedia series is part of the Local Reporting Initiative, supported in part by The Chicago Community Trust.

Also new to Illinois Health Matters is a centralized Events Calendar to share and promote key events across the state concerning implementation of health care reform in Illinois.

About Illinois Health Matters
Illinois Health Matters is a one-stop resource for information on national health care reform in Illinois, and provides clear, expert information around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as commentaries, resources and a blog for individuals, small businesses, community organizations, media and policymakers. Funding for Illinois Health Matters is generously provided by lead donor, The Chicago Community Trust, and managed by Health & Disability Advocates in partnership with a collaborative of Illinois health policy and community-based organizations: AARP of Illinois, AgeOptions, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Campaign for Better Health Care, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, Illinois Maternal & Child Health Coalition, Illinois PIRG Education Fund, and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

About Health & Disability Advocates
Health & Disability Advocates (HDA) is a national nonprofit that employs public-private partnerships to improve access to jobs, education and healthcare in Illinois and throughout the U.S. Our family of initiatives include: Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, National Consortium of Health Systems Development, Illinois Connections Military Family Project, SSI Homeless Outreach Project, Make Medicare Work Coalition, and

Keywords: Erie Neighborhood House, Health Care Reform, Illinois Health Matters, Lawndale, New Health Care Law

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