For many Americans, the strength of their financial situation is correlated to their overall health. Wealthier Americans tend to have a better grasp on the nuances of their bodies, while poorer Americans see health issues— many of which could be prevented— quickly complicate.
Behavioral Healthcare’s Lauren Burns took a deep dive into this situation, focusing on a health clinic in West Baltimore, one of the city’s poorest areas. For many residents the presence of Total Health Care clinic is a God-send, helping them take control of their health in ways they did couldn’t previously imagine.
The clinic, founded in 1989 after the merger of two local health centers, aims to correct these rich-poor inconsistencies in the healthcare system by trying to provide quality care to Baltimore’s poorest residents, who also happened to be “medically underserved”.
The When looking at the stats, the numbers fly in the face of the the assumption that these poorer residents visit the clinics for substance problems. The truth is that well over half of the visitors (61%) went to the clinic to receive some kind of general medical treatment. 14.5% went for mental health treatment, another 14.5% sought substance abuse treatment, and the final 10% went for dental treatment.
Although it’s wonderful that so many people are finally getting that medical care, the clinic’s Vice President, Dr. Arethusa Stevens Kirk says that the job can be challenging. The hardest part? Seeing so many people who have “lost the ability to dream.” Life in those West Baltimore neighborhoods can be rough and mentally grating. Life expectancy is much lower there than in nearby affluent neighborhoods, and some people haven’t even been to Baltimore’s famed inner harbor— only a few miles away. For residents, having an avenue to quality healthcare— mental and physical— could provide some sort of much needed relief.
But the biggest reason clinics like this one are needed are because of the strong correlation between poor financial standing and poor health. Doctors at Total Health Care note that poorer patients often suffer from chronic diseases that like diabetes and hypertension, often diagnosed at an unusually early age. This, combined with poor access to healthcare, means that many people don’t seek treatment until it’s far too late. Sometimes the disease has rapidly progressed, progressed, and others it may lead to an early death.
But it’s plain to see just how important the work in Baltimore is, despite the setbacks and obstacles. It’s leading the way in what will hopefully be the first of many life-altering clinics.