CMCA and Healthcare: Local, State and National Impacts

The Missouri Foundation for Health recently announced its newly elected board members for 2011. These board members will manage nearly $1 billion in assets by distributing grants and contracts for projects that enhance access to health care for underserved populations.

Darin Preis, Executive Director of Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA), was named a new board member for the Foundation. Preis was drawn to the board because of the parallels the Foundation has with CMCA. “CMCA’s mission is to empower individuals and families to achieve self-reliance,” Preis said. “Many families are experiencing economic insecurity because the high cost of health care is an obstacle to building personal assets, or their health related issues interfere with their ability to secure or maintain gainful employment. At CMCA, we are committed to engaging the community to assure that all people have their basic needs met.”

In pursuit of this commitment and under Preis’ leadership, CMCA has partnered with local healthcare professionals and national health educators to assure that adequate information and resources are available for families to meet their health needs.

Within the last two years, CMCA has worked with local healthcare professionals to assure affordable healthcare is available to low income families that are uninsured or underinsured. Two successful collaborations have been implemented to increase access to medical and dental care. MedZou was initiated in 2009 by the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri to provide acute care to individuals that may otherwise have to wait to be seen at their local family health center or utilize a costly emergency room. CMCA provides the space so that 50 people receive medical assessment and treatment each month.

CMCA has also worked with the Family Dental Center to assure that dental health services were available to an underserved population in Callaway County. By providing space, identifying needs and providing referral support, CMCA is helping people receive dental screenings and necessary follow-up.

These local projects have addressed unmet needs in communities to people that were otherwise underserved. By mobilizing partnerships and braiding resources, many Central Missourians have improved health and increased potential to improve their economic situations.

When people are healthy, they are more likely to be able to focus on long-term goals and make decisions that lead their family out of poverty.

In addition to the inroads that have been made for people to receive care, CMCA has taken a national approach to health literacy in an effort to prevent unnecessary medical and dental emergencies altogether. In partnership with the UCLA/Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Institute at UCLA Anderson School of Management and the Office of Head Start, families with young children will be trained to recognize common childhood illnesses and treat them properly.

This training was designed to address the issue that 90 million Americans lack the necessary skills to effectively utilize the healthcare system and that this lack of skills often leads to trips to clinics and emergency rooms that could otherwise be avoided. In Missouri, 2,159 families have been trained in the first two years of the grant. An estimated 7,000 families will be trained throughout the country through 2012. Results have shown that families have reduced their utilization of public medical resources after gaining the necessary skills to manage illnesses at home. Some estimates show that Medicaid could save up to $554 per family, saving millions of dollars.

The combined impacts of these projects remove barriers to health-related information, resources and treatments for families that experience economic instability and provides opportunities for families to maximize their health and propel them into self-reliance.

Preis’s board term with the Missouri Foundation for Health began Jan. 1 and he will serve a three-year term. He is also the Vice Chair of the PedNet Coalition and interested in the impact of active living on socio-economic status and community health.

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