Wednesday, August 10, 2011

National Health Center Week!

How do I keep missing these awesome commemorations?

It's apparently National Health Center Week, an effort supported by Aetna, Sharing the Care, and other corporate and government-based entities.

Health centers are critical to the public health efforts we work for every day. Why? Because they are often located in impoverished, disparaged neighborhoods with few other resources. They are the tie we have, as public health professionals in our towers on high, to the actual populations who need our help. They are the front line defenders against maladies associated with homelessness, poverty, and inaccessible medical care.

National health centers also provide care to immigrant and nomadic workers, populations that are also medically vulnerable.

Now, before I start hearing all of the "they're taking our jobs!" arguments and other such nonsense, I'd like to point out that one of the basic tenets of public health is as follows:

A healthy nation is a happy, productive nation.

If we support the health of everyone who's in this nation, we are not only being decent human beings, but furthering the interests of all Americans (and people who just happen to be here). Now I'm the farthest thing from a "bleeding-heart liberal," but that's an ethical foundation I can stand upon. Sick people, logically, cost us more than healthy people in most cases, right? So, duh, let's keep everyone well.

We might argue that immigrants and others who use the national health center system are draining our resources. Oh, contraire, though, my friends. If they're using the health center system, then they likely are visiting the appropriate medical facility for their needs, rather than congesting local emergency rooms with minor ailments. This is a good thing.

So, enough with the minor tangent.

Did you know that we have a community health center right here in Brazos County? Yep, it's there! It provides low-cost medical care to lower-income individuals in our area (*cough, cough, GRADUATE STUDENTS). I've been to the health department to receive low-cost immunizations that even the campus health center couldn't provide. Gardasil for $30 instead of $150? Yes, please!

Anyway, let's take some time this week to consider the contributions that these little-known facilities make to the overall health in our nation. They don't have glamorous jobs, and they sure aren't famous people, but they are out there making a difference, and I am so grateful for their presence.

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