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Shifting focus from sports reporting to health and wellness

It saddens me a bit to say that I will be leaving the COURIER. Although it has been fulfilling to work in the newspaper industry with my wonderful colleagues this past year, my decision to accept a position with a healthcare and wellness center represents my dream to be a part of a new age of health and wellness delivery.

I will be working with MetroHealth Station (MHS), with founder Kathy Sullivan and a bright team of individuals whose collective goal is to improve the health of southern California residents by prevention.

The clinic will specifically target men and women aged 18-44, who are currently under-insured and under-served. With our nation’s administration redirecting more funding for people who use governmental insurance, MHS will pave the way for benefit corporations to realize that insuring and preventing illness of the under-served can be profitable and socially responsible.

MHS is a startup, set to open its flagship operation late this summer in southwestern Los Angeles. In Los Angeles County, it is estimated that almost 30 percent of the population is uninsured. If we look specifically at the Jefferson Park district of south Los Angeles, we find that number to be much higher. There is a distinct lack of health centers in this area.

Within a one-mile radius, there are 90,000 residents and 4 McDonald’s fast food restaurants. There is not one institution specifically built to improve people’s health.

The target population has a number of other significant needs. The median income for a family in Jefferson Park is just north of $30,000, while the average is almost $50,000. This indicates a trend of the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer.

Problems for residents in Jefferson Park include high infant mortality, low birth weight and inadequate prenatal care. Maternal and infant health statistics are all below the national average. In addition, 40 percent of high school students drop out, and 50 percent of students are in foster care. Violent deaths, incarceration and sexually transmitted disease rates are all above the national average.

Statistics on residents of Jefferson Park show higher rates of diabetes and chronic disease than almost every other zip code in greater Los Angeles (OSHPD). The area’s residents are predominantly black or Hispanic. Studies have shown that nationally, adults who are black or Hispanic die 10 years earlier than adults of other ethnicities. MHS aims to reduce the rate of uninsured residents, and stem the rise of diabetes and chronic disease by ensuring that 10,000 people sign up for semi-annual appointments with the clinic’s health professionals.

MHS takes advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and will advocate for greater understanding of the changes brought about by the ACA. At MHS, we will work to align new patients with existing health insurance programs with the help of a health navigator, who will go over potential plans and help decrease the number of uninsured people in the area.

The ACA means that there will be considerably more funding for low-to-moderate income Americans who cannot get insurance through their jobs, so they can afford coverage. It also means that private health insurance will be more affordable for people through tax credits and price transparency.

MHS will not compete with existing outpatient clinics. The model is designed so that MHS reaches a niche of under-insured adults who otherwise would not have received wellness care. These people would potentially fall sick in the future and cost taxpayers more money on the back end, but MHS will stymie that back-end cost by preventing sickness.

MHS is designed to integrate with existing systems by contracting with hospital groups and other outpatient clinics, thus uniting health silos that previously did not cover the entire health delivery pipeline.

As the operations coordinator, my job is to ensure that everyone on the startup team knows their particular tasks and meets their deadlines. I will also be responsible for the build-out of the wellness clinic, planning the layout of the center and working with the construction team.

MHS plans to open the clinic to patients in January, and efforts are already underway to recruit the first wave of patients, as well as the professionals who will see them. This model of health wellness delivery is expandable and should work in any under-served area. If MHS is successful, the company will open wellness centers and new jobs all over Los Angeles. Our team is confident that we will hit the ground running, and begin a revolution in health delivery.

—Chris Oakley

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