A Publication of WTVP

Without the assistance of health care programs offered by our local social service agencies, many central Illinois individuals would be unable to secure the medications, health screenings, and education they need to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Between 2000 and 2003, the percentage of adults in the United States without health insurance coverage rose 2 to 3 percent, depending on an individual’s level of education. Most often, patients lack health insurance coverage because they work more than one part-time job, they’ve been laid-off, or they’re widowed or divorced.

How do the uninsured affect our community? According to a 2005 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, between 2000 and 2005, the percent of employers unable to provide health insurance coverage to their employees rose 9 percent. In 2001, the Census Bureau reported 41.2 million Americans were uninsured, and that number is expected to have risen significantly with increases in unemployment rates and reductions to Medicaid. Annually, it’s estimated uninsured individuals generate $9.7 to $11.6 billion in inpatient health care costs and $1.2 to $1.4 billion in outpatient health care costs.

Thirteen percent of families living in Peoria County don’t have health insurance coverage. Annually, the Heart of Illinois United Way invests more than $1.143 million in local health programs that provide direct health services, health education, and prevention support. These programs include health and safety services, community clinics, exercise and therapy, emergency response, information and referral, home health care, substance abuse prevention and treatment, dental services, and visual services.

Heartland Community Health Clinic is just one of 15 local agencies receiving funding for health programs, which include two new programs initiated in 2005: Hispanic outreach and dental care.

By providing services to the Hispanic community, the clinic is serving multiple patients daily, helping them understand their doctors, lab work, medicines, and much more. Heartland not only provides interpretation services as they treat each client, but they also provide case management that helps with counseling, referrals, and much more. Currently, the program is collaborating with the Center for Prevention of Abuse, Catholic Charities, and Friendship House. The program also works with Bradley University’s dietetic students and professors to translate and create print materials for patients.

Recent studies by the Center for Disease Control point to associations between oral infections—primarily gum infections—and diabetes; heart disease; stroke; and preterm, low-weight births. In 2005, Heartland Community Health Clinic began providing dental care for clinic patients. Primarily treating individuals age 18 to 34, participants in the program receive exams, x-rays, extractions, fillings, and much more. Working with the dental hygiene students at Illinois Central College, patients can receive routine cleanings as well. Each patient is pre-screened and taught the importance of maintaining oral health.

In the long term, patients who put off seeking health care because they can’t afford the expense often face illnesses that are much more difficult—and more expensive—to treat. Every day, agencies throughout central Illinois are helping those in need of health care lead healthier and safer lifestyles by preventing health deterioration and promoting healthy lifestyle choices. IBI