When I immigrated to Washington, D.C. with my mother in the 1960s, minority communities, both native and immigrant, were concentrated in discreet enclaves that largely lacked information about or access to the city's health system. Decades later, minority populations continue to suffer from ghastly health disparities.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Minority Health reports that:
As a young nurse in the late 1980s, pervasive minority health disparities and the compounding needs of these communities compelled me to found Mary's Center , a Federally Qualified Health Center now serving more than 24,000 individuals in the DC-metropolitan area annually. For more than two decades, Mary's Center has aimed to reverse health disparities by ensuring access to quality health care and family services that support the development of healthy families and strong communities.
In 2011, 86 percent of the more than 24,000 individuals served by Mary's Center represented minority groups. However, we owe our impressive health outcomes to our social change model , a strategy linking health care to community-based support services, while helping family members reach their education goals.
Some of our successes include:
Mary's Center has found that individuals who are healthy and feel supported in their communities become better learners and are motivated to achieve greater economic stability. We have observed that stable families place more emphasis on the educational achievement of their children, thus strengthening the well-being, and therefore health, of the next generation.
This April, in light of National Minority Health Month, I urge policymakers to safeguard funding for community health centers. I celebrate the dedication of the Mary's Center staff and our countless partners, and look forward to the day when access to affordable health care is not an obstacle for our region.
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