Community health care is good health care
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This old adage has never taken on greater importance than the present day as the cost of becoming and staying healthy continues to soar and as people continue to weigh their health care options.Consider the implications of seeking care for a simple sore throat - according to the Medical Choice Network, an emergency room visit yields the average cost of $525 while a visit to an alternative provider such as an urgent care facility or community health center can chip over $400 off that hefty tab.With more health care homes in communities, we can reduce health care costs and unnecessary hospitalizations and visits to hospital emergency rooms and improve the overall quality of health care.Locally, Manchester is very fortunate to have the Manchester Community Health Center to serve as a health care hub for over 7,000 patients who represent some of the region's most vulnerable populations. Of these patients, 45 percent are uninsured, another 35 percent are on Medicaid and almost 50 percent do not speak English fluently. Without MCHC, they would be forced to address routine health care needs at the state's already clogged emergency rooms at great cost and to the detriment of the overall health care system in this state.MCHC is a locally controlled nonprofit entity directed by a patient majority board, which ensures the organization is accountable and responsive to the community it serves. Community health centers not only make financial sense, they also add to the quality of care delivered in New Hampshire. Centers like MCHC start with the notion that preventive care is paramount to overall health. That's why they offer comprehensive programs and services like nutritional counseling, cancer screening, diabetes education, stress management and family planning in addition to primary medical care. The result is a decreased rate of low birth weight deliveries that is better than the state average, disease management programs that reduce hospital stays and improve the prospects of those with chronic illnesses and an over 90 percent patient satisfaction rate.As an MCHC board member and patient, I can attest firsthand to the high quality of service delivered at the center. I have been consistently impressed not only by the breadth of programs offered, but also by the compassion and the professionalism demonstrated by its staff.That's why I hearken back to Ben Franklin's wise words about prevention, secure in the fact there is a health care center in my community that is providing affordable care in a smart and proactive way. That's what health care should be and that's what we celebrate as we strive for a healthier nation for all.Jeff Michelsen of Manchester is a patient at Manchester Community Health Center and a member of the center's board.