Community-based organizations are ideally suited for healthcare prevention efforts and provide a needed linkage to medical care provider systems.
According to the CDC, 1 of every 5 Americans is between the ages of 50 and 64 years. Seventy percent of them have already been diagnosed with at least 1 chronic health condition, and nearly half have 2 or more. The most common of these chronic conditions are type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, and arthritis. What all these conditions have in common is that they are preventable.
Preventive care services can help detect, delay, or even stop these diseases early in their most treatable stages. For example, a recent study by the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group found that lifestyle intervention programs reduced diabetes development by 27% over 15 years. Despite the availability and effectiveness of these preventive care services, however, a large percentage of at-risk adults are not utilizing them. Part of the reason is that current healthcare practices and systems lack the resources to reach the growing number of people who need them. Primary care cannot do it alone.
Building Community Linkages is Effective in Preventing Chronic Disease
Community-based organizations are ideally suited for prevention efforts and provide a needed linkage to medical care provider systems that tend to be more focused on acute care, treatment, and cure, than on preventive health. Linking chronic prevention services to places where people routinely live, work, pray, and play can reduce the effort and inconvenience incurred by seeking such services, and can increase awareness and interest in using them.
But successfully delivering essential preventive services requires collaboration among healthcare, community, and, more recently, digital providers. Over the past few years, there has been an emerging recognition of the need for innovative delivery systems that integrate assets of both health and community systems, including non-clinical partners such as community centers, faith-based organizations, schools, employers, YMCAs, and even Meals on Wheels. Together, these organizations can actively promote care coordination, fitness, health behaviors, proper nutrition, as well as health environments and workplaces. These hyper-local organizations understand the barriers and resources that can hinder or help health behaviors.
The fact is, localized preventive care programs can deliver outsized results. We need to transform the preventive care service delivery model to simplify and streamline consumers’ access to lower-cost, higher-access, community-based preventive health solutions. In doing so, we will reach consumers where they live and give them more choice, leading to a greater likelihood of engagement and success.
Integrating community resources is critical to achieving the goals of preventive health efforts. Location matters.