Guest Columnist

Celebrating National Health Center Week

Joe Lock, president and CEO of Eastern Iowa Health Center, talks during the Collaborating with Health Care Providers to Address the Opioid Epidemic panel hosted by the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition and CRUSH of Iowa at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May. 22, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Joe Lock, president and CEO of Eastern Iowa Health Center, talks during the Collaborating with Health Care Providers to Address the Opioid Epidemic panel hosted by the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition and CRUSH of Iowa at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May. 22, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Elected officials across the country will join communities in celebrating National Health Center Week 2019 from August 4 through 10. Their visits and messages to community cealth centers like Eastern Iowa Health Center (EIHC) will demonstrate that not only is it possible to move beyond the partisan divide over health care, but to support and agree on a program vital to our communities.

Health centers provide preventive and primary care services to 28 million people in all 50 states. Without them, we cannot curb health care costs and protect communities from preventable diseases. Health centers provide care to people who disproportionately suffer from chronic diseases and lack access to affordable, quality care. While our approach is community-based and local, collectively we generate a nationwide ripple effect. Health centers lower health care costs more than $24 billion a year, reduce chronic illnesses and stimulate local economies.

At Eastern Iowa Health Center (EIHC), we provide family medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN, behavioral Health, medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders, and dental health care. Health centers are innovators who look beyond medical charts to address the social determinants of health that may cause sickness, poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, lack of nutrition, and unemployment. We collaborate and partner with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health for people who are medically vulnerable.

EIHC’s mission is crucial today because access to basic care remains a challenge in parts of the United States. EIHC is at the heart of the safety net, providing health care to over 13,500 individuals in more than 52,000 visits in 2018. Included in this number are 701 babies delivered at our two local hospitals, more than 8,000 dental visits and a myriad other services — regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. EIHC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works hard to meet the needs of our patients and community, including many immigrants and refugees that reside in our area.

Secure, long-term funding for the Community Health Center Program will ensure we close the access gap for medically vulnerable communities. Accomplishing this task depends on Congress. I am grateful that Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, as well as Rep. Finkenauer, have shown leadership in supporting legislation that will protect health centers from losing a major part of their funding at the end of September.

Show your support during National Health Center Week by visiting EIHC on Tuesday, August 6 during our open house. We look forward to seeing you!

• Joe Lock is president & CEO of Eastern Iowa Health Center. Comments: JLock@EIHC.com

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