Did you know in Atlanta there's a zip coded area where people are dying an average of 13 years earlier than the people living in wealthier zip codes? Poverty is a huge determinate of health and longevity.
Those are the kinds of facts the staff of The Mercy Ministries (TMM) learned while visiting the Good Samaritan Health Center of Atlanta Wednesday, October, 31st.
So, what exactly is Good Sam's mission?
"For many the access to quality healthcare like regular check-ups and exams, prenatal care, dental visits, health education and counseling all seem, though sometimes burdensome, a necessity to living a well balanced life. Too often however families must make a choice between the basics of food and shelter or preventive healthcare that could not only change their lives, but many times save them.
The Good Samaritan Health Center exists to remove the burden of that decision from families, creating a place where they can receive the highest quality care without sacrificing the basic necessities of life. Good Sam serves individuals and families who have the least access to healthcare and are at the highest risk of having serious health issues remain undiagnosed and untreated.
The Center offers medical, dental, health education, mental health, and social services. Patients pay on a reduced sliding fee scale based on income and household size with the remaining costs provided by donations. At The Good Samaritan Health Center, the entire family receives quality healthcare in an atmosphere of dignity and respect, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion."
Good Sam, a holistic healthcare clinic much like TMM, began in 1995 and has expanded to a full-time staff of 40 with 400 volunteers in rotation. They have 37,000+ patient encounters each year. Their services include Adult & Pediatric Medical Care, Dental Care, Counseling, Speciality Medical, Health Education. Prenatal Care, Medical Networking, a Pharmacy, and a Food Rx program where patients are given access to organic fruits and vegetables grown right on the property!
To put that in perspective, Mercy has 10 full-time staff members, 30 volunteers and about 2,500 patient encounters each year. We do not offer Prenatal or Pediatric care, and we do not have a year-round farm allowing us to provide our patents with fruits and veggies. However, this visit was eye-opening to Mercy's staff, giving us a glimpse of the impact we can continue to make in rural Georgia!
The Disparities of Health, as defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, are pretty much the same for those living in rural Georgia as they are for those impoverished communities in and around Metro Atlanta. And, data is showing that non-profit medical clinics, with the faithful support of their communities and volunteers, are making a huge impact on the overall health and wellness of those areas.
We were especially excited to hear first-hand about the local Disparities of Health from Veronica Squires, CAO of Good Sam. Squires has written a book, How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick: Restoring Health and Wellness to Our Communities, which will be available January 2019. The Georgia Charitable Care Network described her book as explaining how "our neighborhoods are literally making us sick. Buildings with mold trigger asthma and other respiratory conditions. Geographic lack of access to food and health care increases childhood mortality. Community violence traumatizes residents. Poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, food insecurity, racial injustice, and oppression cause physical changes in the body, resulting in disease and death. But there is hope. Loving our neighbor includes creating social environments in which people can be healthy. While working in community redevelopment and treating uninsured families, Veronica Squires discovered that creating healthier neighborhoods requires a commitment to health equity."
Thank you, Veronica, for such a wonderfully informative tour!
We look forward to reading your book!
So, to say the least, the staff of TMM returned home from our field trip inspired and encouraged! With your help, we really are making a difference in the lives of each family we touch!