Since the health of each member in any community is a collective responsibility of the community as a whole, I’d like to propose an idea that should not be audacious at all: to be a responsible community, our country needs to join the rest of the developed world in establishing a health care system where routine access to appropriate medical care for every member is not only a possibility, but a certainty.
I’m confident that most readers have been exposed to this principle in an immediate sense; when we fall ill, we rely on safety nets that may include friends, family, or neighbors in addition to health insurance and health care professionals. In turn, we look back on times when someone else experienced illness and we acted beyond ourselves to aid in their recovery. The bottom line is that health outcomes for an individual, in any community, are not isolated events.
Although seemingly intuitive, this is a principle our nation has struggled with. The Hill-Burton Act, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, and now the Affordable Care Act, among others, have steered us in the right direction. In the meantime, those unable to pay for medical treatment fall victim to a system that prevents them from maintaining complete and reliable health safety nets.
Despite a robust network of health care providers, Baltimore City falls short by a number of metrics in addressing the problem of limited access to care. At Charm City Clinic, we work with low income city residents to overcome the numerous gaps in existing health care resources, and piece together effective safety nets.
The “audacious” idea of our clinic is that we should not need to exist. Our clients often have strong networks of friends, family or neighbors who are extremely supportive. The fragmentation and scarcity of health resources, however, often creates barriers that are impossible for our clients to overcome without outside assistance.
We look forward to changes that will help reshape health resources in this city, organizing them in a way that not only allows but encourages direct utilization by the intended recipients. Until then, our clinic maintains a steadfast commitment to our work.