On a Saturday in June, tables strewn with information about affordable insurance, free health checks and prescriptions were scattered throughout the Eastside Community Practice. At one table, a volunteer took the blood pressure of an elderly woman. At another, a young man was checked for diabetes.
Outside the clinic, smoke curled from a barbecue, drawing a small crowd of people lugging red bags stuffed with health information. Nearby, other volunteers fitted children for safe bicycle helmets and checked the safety of a new mother’s car seat.
The event may have seemed like just another health fair to some attendees. But to Kendall Campbell, M.D., medical director of the Eastside Community Practice, having a packed house on a Saturday was a huge step forward in an effort he launched at the clinic more than a year ago.
Located on Waldo Road just north of University Avenue, the Eastside Community Practice sits in an area with the highest rates of cancer deaths, infant mortality and sexually transmitted diseases in Alachua County, according to the 2008 Alachua County Health Report Card. That’s why Campbell set out on a mission to improve prevention efforts in the community, recruiting more patients and offering services geared toward taking care of patients year-round, not just when they’re sick.
“What we’re essentially trying to do is not be the ‘doc in the box,’” Campbell said. “We want to be more proactive and go out in the community.”
Because of the unique challenges in the community, the Eastside Community Practice doesn’t operate like a typical clinic. It’s an interdisciplinary effort — family doctors team with pharmacists, pediatricians, mental health counselors, nurse practitioners, nurses and a social worker to help patients. It has a diverse patient population, too. Some patients have insurance. Some don’t. For these folks, the help doesn’t end there. The clinic’s social worker works with patients who are unemployed to help them find jobs or even training so they can get a better job with insurance.
“It’s more of a one-stop shop for people here, to help get them on their feet and not continue in their state of helplessness and hopelessness,” Campbell said. “We’re saying ‘You can do this thing, and I’m going to help you.’”
To reach out to new patients, clinic staff members have performed health screenings at community locations such as Wal-Mart or local churches. Staff members help potential patients figure out if they qualify for programs such as CHOICES, a county program that gives the working uninsured access to needed health services. Campbell also has started a medication voucher programs using donated funds.
In November, the clinic is teaming with the department of urology to raise prostate cancer awareness. And they aren’t just sitting back and waiting for the patients to come to them, they’re taking the message into the community, to ministers and to barbershops. The clinic also received a grant from the U.S. Department of Women’s Health to help train community members how to fight childhood obesity.
Eventually, Campbell said he plans to use a mobile unit for screenings and other health services.
The clinic is also implementing a wellness program to prevent health problems and ensure that patients are following doctors’ orders even when they don’t have appointments. A big part of this effort is a disease management registry Campbell and his staff developed.
The registry will allow the clinic to easily keep track of patients who have conditions such as diabetes or asthma and will categorize them based on how they’re managing the disease, Campbell said. This will allow the practice to focus on specific patients who need to be followed more closely.
Overall, Campbell’s biggest goal is to increase health-care opportunities for people in East Gainesville. He would like to keep the clinic open later so underinsured workers who can’t leave their jobs during the day can come to Eastside after hours when they’re sick instead of going to a hospital emergency room for primary care. He also hopes to collaborate with physicians in the department of emergency medicine to encourage homeless and uninsured East Gainesville residents to go to the clinic instead of using emergency services as primary care.
Of course, these goals require money, Campbell says. He’s working with UF development officers to raise money for the clinic and has hired a grant writer to work on securing grants for the clinic. The clinic also receives funding through the Alachua County Area Health Education Centers. Every dollar or collaboration helps.
“We have a lot of educating to do,” Campbell said. “We have a lot of work to do on health care in East Gainesville.”