The New York Times published a great op-ed by author David Bornstein earlier this week about organizations that are reducing health care costs by reducing the amount of care need to get in the first place– especially in low income communities.
For example, there’s Health Leads:
Health Leads mobilizes student volunteers in 23 health centers and hospitals who help low-income families gain access to resources that doctors and other health care providers deem vital. The volunteers complement the social workers (who can focus on problems like mental health, abuse and neglect) by providing families with connections to housing services, food supplements, exercise programs and fuel assistance. They also help patients’ family members get access to things like subsidized child care, English language classes, transportation vouchers and quality after school programs — making it easier for them to find work so they can afford to live healthier lives.
The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation has a video showing more of the work Health Leads does:
The Child Health Association in Brazil is another great model:
Like Health Leads, the Child Health Association was established to break the cycle of re-hospitalization that occurs among poor children when the social causes of their illnesses go untreated. It was founded in 1991 by Vera Cordeiro, a Brazilian physician, who worked at a large public hospital that served families from the surrounding favelas, or slums.
The Child Health Association has a network of 22 partners that link with hospitals in a number of Brazilian cities. They have assisted 40,000 patients and family members. They provide nutritional supplements and mobilize volunteers who help families develop action plans that include improving housing conditions, pursuing vocational training and adopting healthier behaviors. A sample of patient data from 107 families revealed that the organization was able to decrease the annual average number of days children were hospitalized from 28 to 11, a 60 percent drop. The associated savings is a big reason why the municipal government of Belo Horizonte formed a partnership with the organization and why Rio de Janeiro is considering a similar arrangement.
It’s great to see groups working on an often overlooked way to reduce health care costs while dramatically improving peoples’ lives.