Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bayview's healthcare approach

Pictured are Supervisor Sophie Maxwell and Southeast Health Center Director Dr. Mark Ghaly

Serious health issues affect communities like Bayview Hunters Point more than others, while prevention and treatment are unequal in the reverse. The more challenging the times, the more difficult it is for those with unequal access to healthcare to stay well.

When illness strikes, the nearest trusted person or group becomes tremendously important. For some, the first place to turn is family, for others it’s church, longtime neighbors, or a familiar community-based organization.

Community health events that combine community-building with clinical services are models for success, and part of Bayview Hunters Point’s history of public health strategies that blur the lines between industry and “grassroots.”

On Saturday February 21st, women’s health was celebrated in what was part festival and part medical clinic. Staff from the Southeast Health Center, the driving force behind the event, mixed balloons and a raffle with free professional mammograms, clinical breasts exams, and other important services.

A stream of women and their families coursed through Mendell Plaza and the Bayview Opera House at the all-day event while healthcare professionals provided screening, taught workshops, and distributed information.

The urgency of health issues facing women in Bayview Hunters Point was never far from mind. A mid-day lunch and line-up of speakers provided what were some of the most moving moments of the day.

Breast cancer survivor and advocate Gail Bishop shared her story as an example of the importance of early detection. Supervisor Sophie Maxwell spoke about the pain of losing her son to a five-year battle with cancer, and pointed out the impact of serious health issues on family, friends and community. Bayview Hunters Point native and Community Health Worker, Veronica Shepard, was credited for much of the organizing work.

Another opportunity for neighborhood residents to get healthier is Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Families First, the Southeast Community Facility Commission’s 2nd annual health fair scheduled for Saturday, April 4th from 10am to 2pm at 1800 Oakdale.

“We want to bring our community’s children, youth and families together to celebrate and improve health and wellness,” stated Commission President Willie B. Kennedy. “Obesity and diabetes can be prevented and treated if we commit ourselves to education and to finding ways to connect services with the people who need them.”

Residents of Bayview Hunters Point, doctors from SF General Hospital, and community leaders from throughout the neighborhood will join together in the coming months to discuss the community’s healthcare needs, and to develop a national policy brief that informs the current healthcare debate. The specific needs of the Bayview Hunters Point community and communities like it will be highlighted.

A series of facilitated discussions hosted by organizations that represent a diverse spectrum of knowledge and experience with regard to BVHP’s mental and physical healthcare landscape is now being scheduled. A draft policy brief will be presented at an open “Bayview Footprints Forum.”

It’s all part of a partnership, called “Seva,” between the BVHP community and the UCSF Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency Program at SF General Hospital. Seva emerged from the Southeast Food Access Working Group, and was designed to build bridges of understanding between the hospital and the community.

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