Learning to (Self) Care
People who are under- or uninsured tend not to visit the doctor until they are in crisis In fact, residents of the 6 most underserved communities in the PLCM Service Area are more than twice as likely as the rest of LA County to not access medical tests and treatments because of cost. That tendency can have potentially fatal consequences, especially when the disease they aren't treating is a chronic disease like diabetes.
And these residents do have diabetes, at almost twice the rate of the rest of LA County.
When PLCM discovered these statistics - which are underscored by the tendency to use unreimbursed emergency room services for acute care of chronic conditions - we responded with an education and access program that has changed the lives of many community members.
The Vasek Polak Health Clinic
Created to meet the primary care needs of uninsured and underinsured adults - especially those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure - the Vasek Polak Health Clinic operates in Hawthorne. Office visits cost $50, and the staff helps patients access low-cost medications when prescribed. Perhaps most important, effective education and self-management programs are successfully helping patients learn how to care for themselves!
Ana was still grieving the loss of her brother to diabetes when she herself was diagnosed with the disease. She was frightened about what could happen to her and, ultimately, to her children. Fortunately, she learned about the Vasek Polak Clinic and made an appointment. Once there, she enrolled in the Diabetes Education and Self-Management program. She says it was a Godsend.
"I never realized how serious diabetes was before my brother died," Ana says. "I've learned how important it is to keep my blood sugar under control. I've adjusted our food portions at home and go for regular walks.
"I'm grateful for the impact the Clinic has on our community. I get chills just thinking about it. The first time I attended class I thought, 'It's not only me' that is going through this. There are lots of people."
Ana now promotes the program within the community, delivering flyers to businesses and bringing diabetic friends along to clinic classes. Finding a solution for herself, Ana has become part of the solution for the community!
Hawthorne's Medical Home
The Vasek Polak Health Clinic puts health care and education within the community, where residents can - and do - easily access the help they need. They come away with a better understanding of their health needs and treatment options. And they benefit from the referral and support services offered by Promotoras (Community Health Workers). The numbers show this low-cost clinic is working: In 2009, more than 2,500 adults received medical care at the Vasek Polak Health Clinic