Swedish Community Benefits Program
Swedish Medical Center
Seattle is home to some of the top leaders in global health, but there are ample health care problems to be solved in our own backyard. Residents of South King County, for example, experience rates of diabetes, asthma, low birth weight and shortened life span, challenges similar to some developing countries.
Swedish Medical Center, whose Community Benefits Program already provides uncompensated care and clinic services, has taken new initiative in the area: The Global to Local program partners with area global health experts to apply in local underserved communities strategies that have proven effective elsewhere.
Working with the cities of Tukwila and SeaTac, Swedish learned the health care concerns of low-income residents by asking them in “conversation cafes.” In response, classes in diet and health account for the cultural habits and needs of the diverse area. Language barriers inhibit access to medical and nonmedical information, so the program provides translation services as well.
The program is still young, cultivating local partners and training community leaders. But it has already gained strong acceptance, with help provided to more than 2,000 at-risk participants in its first 18 months.
For more than 40 years, the University of Washington has led an effort to encourage physicians to serve in the rural areas of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI). Its newer Targeted Rural/Underserved Track (TRUST) allows students to train within a chosen community such as a small town, Native American lands or underserved urban neighborhoods, from medical school through residency. With roots established, a health care professional is more likely to remain and help alleviate the doctor shortage.
Silence Whooping Cough
Group Health Foundation
Whooping cough, once thought largely eradicated, made a surprising comeback in 2012, with nearly 5,000 reported cases in Washington state. In response, Group Health Foundation expanded its Silence Whooping Cough campaign to encourage vaccination against the highly preventable disease. Partnering with county governments, schools and parenting groups to educate and distribute free vaccines, Group Health Foundation has helped raise awarness in the state where nearly a third of children miss one or more recommended vaccinations.