Getting healthy, keeping healthy.
Mayra spoke of the extreme pain and inability to work or care for her son. Hermelinda tearfully said she thought she would not be able to create the floral arrangements that were her specialty. Juan excitedly told of relief from excruciating head pain so that he could be daddy once more and play with his young children. They all prayed for an angel to come and help them. These angels are the volunteer physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, and various healthcare professionals mobilized into action by Champions for Health (CFH), a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve community health and wellness, access to care for all, and support for physicians through engaged volunteerism. This CFH vision is to get people healthy, and to keep people healthy, through an integrated approach of service provision and partner collaboration.
Project Access San Diego (PASD), the flagship program of CFH, provides a full range of pro bono specialty health care to qualifying low-income uninsured individuals who are referred by primary care physicians in partner community clinics. CFH staff use best practices of care management to transform people’s lives from pain and dire medical diagnoses to health, renewed family involvement, and productive work and community life. This care management is coupled with free patient enabling services such as medical interpretation during appointments, transportation to specialty care offices, and medicine assistance. The network of 625 physicians, 10 hospitals, 14 outpatient surgery centers, and healthcare service partners donate specialty health care consultations, procedures, surgeries, and ancillary health services such as imaging, labs, medical equipment, physical therapy and more totalling nearly $16 million to over 6000 PASD patients.
While PASD gets people healthy, the Community Health & Wellness programming that addresses preventable and chronic diseases, keeps people healthy. CFH efforts include immunizations for the flu, TDAP, Hepatitis A; screenings for blood pressure and colorectal cancer; CDC certified and recognized diabetes prevention workshops; and the Live Well San Diego Speaker’s Bureau.
This year alone, the 500+ volunteer health care professionals provided 1,300 free vaccinations at 23 sites, 20,000 blood pressure screenings at 160 locations, and several hundred healthy living topic presentations throughout the community. Physicians speak of the personal and professional benefit these opportunities to volunteer their expertise present and see it is an extension of their original commitment to enter the medical profession. “Our people are dying of preventable diseases that can stopped from a single injection. It’s my role as a medical provider to be here and ensure they have access no matter what their income level may be.” And participants echo how important and meaningful a personal connection with a physician can be: “It’s nice to see a physician take time out of their busy day to come and speak to us. It reminds us that they are human too.”
The glue that holds all these free services together is the dedication of the physician volunteers who first envisioned being of service to the community at the San Diego County Medical Society. A Foundation was created, which is now Champions for Health. Come join their physician heroes at their 5th annual Solana Beach Sunset 5k on November 10th at Fletcher Cove Beach Park to raise funds to benefit our community wellness and diabetes prevention programs. Register as an individual, family, get your friends and coworkers together to form a team on www.SB5k.org. New this year is FUNdraising by customizing your own page and winning prizes for most funds raised.