This is what I believe social justice is: acknowledging the world’s greatest needs, and helping people right where they are.
The two core social justice goals of my internship organization are to provide health care access to everyone regardless of income and eliminate health disparities among Asian Americans.
In terms of achieving the first goal, the Health Center funds most of its initiatives through government grants. I have witnessed my supervisor write these grant applications. It is a lot of work! However, what can be accomplished through them is incredible. Grants cover transportation costs for patients (via a two-way subway metro card) and provides the finances to establish mentorship programs such as “Smoking Cessation” and “Hep B Moms.” Even my project this summer is funded by a grant. My role has been to evaluate an educational comic book’s effectiveness and write up an abstract on the research findings. In a few weeks, we will be able to print, publish, and disseminate the innovative material to public health organizations all across the U.S.
The nature of the organization as a nonprofit requires smart financial decisions where every dollar is allocated for patients rather than for private spending. I think this is a significant factor as to why the Health Center is effective in accomplishing its social justice mission. Outside of government-funded initiatives, primary care and urgent care visits are offered to everyone; no one is ever refused treatment due to financial reasons. Patients can either pay through family health insurance or through a sliding scale fee determined by yearly income or their W-2 tax release. Essentially, this expands the health center’s accessibility to out-of-state patients (often extended family members or migrant workers), as well as patients without Medicaid / Social Security / Medicare.
The Health Center has also made strides in its second mission to eliminate Asian American health disparities. It has implemented key services such as mental health therapy, social work consultations, and referrals to health care providers within the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center network. These efforts significantly reduce the amount of traveling and time that patients take out of work in order to meet their health needs. Additionally, for Asian dialects that are less common (e.g. Fuzhounese), there are in-person and language access line interpreters available to assist physicians in translating clinical diagnoses. Care managers also make follow up calls to ensure patients are continuing their treatment at home.
On a broader scale, the Health Center has formed close connections with specialists at NYU Langone and pharmacists at Metropharm to guarantee that patients are directed to quality referral care and receive the most affordable prescription medicine. The Health Center’s education and research departments are also great at maintaining relationships with Chinese press reporters, elected city council officials, NYC Department of Health, and national public health organizations. As a result, there are ample opportunities for press conferences, free citywide tuberculosis and hepatitis B screenings, publicity/outreach, and enrollment of the Asian American population into programs that will be of lifelong benefit to them.
As I watch all of this progress unfold, I remember Charles B. Wang Community Health Center’s slogan, “We are your medical home, we care about you.” It is neat to watch the various departments fulfill the slogan and reach the goals they had set forth to accomplish.
-Michelle Yan ’19