Expanding Access to Health Care
Since 2003, California Pacific Medical Center has played an active role in a citywide effort by all San Francisco hospitals to improve the health of African Americans in the city. The African American Health Disparity Project (AAHDP) was created in response to a community needs assessment that showed African Americans are less likely than other groups to have access to health care. As a result, their death rates from health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and various forms of cancer are significantly worse than other groups.
To help turn the tide, California Pacific Medical Center has launched a variety of programs that expand access to health care for African Americans, including many who live in the St. Luke’s Campus service area. Here are two examples:
Bayview Child Health Center
Whenever pediatrician Nadine Burke, M.D., sees this photo from California Pacific’s Web site for the Bayview Child Health Center, she can’t help smiling. “We want to empower kids to realize their dreams – to be a ‘superhero’ like the boy in the photo if that’s what they want to be,” she says.
“Unfortunately, African Americans in our community have much higher infant and child mortality rates,” she adds. “The Bayview-Hunter’s Point area has the highest number of children of any area of the city. It also is where we see some of the worst statistics, which is why we opened this clinic two years ago. We wanted to give these kids an equal opportunity to grow up healthy.”
Located at 1335 Evans Avenue, the clinic offers a full range of pediatric services such as well-baby exams, immunizations and treatment for children who are sick. Patients are frequently referred to St. Luke’s for services such as X-rays and lab tests, as well as for specialized medical treatment. But there’s a lot more.
“Many of the children we see have learning and behavioral problems,” explains Burke, who is medical director of the facility. “We have a psychologist on staff to help address these issues. We also have a child trauma intern who works with children up to age 5 who have suffered physical or emotional trauma.”
Other common health problems include asthma, being overweight or even obese, pre-diabetes and diabetes. “Our weight management clinic helps families learn how to choose a healthier diet and maintain a healthy weight,” Burke says. “We also are making a huge difference with our asthma management program that includes intensive education and frequent follow-up visits. So far, not one of our asthma patients has had to be hospitalized.”
Burke notes that up to 70 percent of households in the Hunter’s Point area do not have cars. “It is very important to have this clinic located within the community so people can have easy access to care,” she says.
The clinic is open to all children in the community from birth to age 18, regardless of the family’s ability to pay. An insurance counselor is on staff to help families enroll in various government-funded and private insurance programs. For more information, call 415-600-1990.
African American Breast Health Program
Carolyn Dyson, program manager for the African American Breast Health Program, has a personal stake in the fight against breast cancer.
“My mother died of breast cancer at age 52,” she explains. “My mother’s sister is a breast cancer survivor. My daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35, after finding a lump just five months after having a clear mammogram. I was diagnosed with breast cancer four months after my daughter. We went through treatment together, and now, eight years later, we are both cancer-free. I am driven to promote the cause of early detection, based on my own story.”
Launched in September 2004, the program offers a variety of accessible breast health services for African American women at the St. Luke’s Campus and the California Campus, including first-time breast screenings, annual mammogram screenings, breast self-examination instruction and breast health education. Women who are diagnosed with cancer are provided with treatments funded by contributions to California Pacific Medical Center Foundation. Radiologists, surgeons and other physicians also have donated their services.
To qualify for the program, women must be San Francisco residents over age 40 and either:
- be uninsured,
- have billable insurance such as Medi-Cal or Medicare,
- have billable commercial health insurance,
- be Medi-Cal eligible,
- have insurance that does not cover screening mammograms, or
- have high insurance deductibles that prevent them from seeking screenings.
Women under age 40 can participate in the program if they have a family history of breast cancer, unexplained changes in the breast or other symptoms.
“Caucasian women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but African American women are more likely to die from it,” says Dyson. “One reason is the lack of access to affordable health care. There is also a lack of awareness about breast cancer in the African American community. As a result, many African American women are diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage when the tumors are larger and have spread to other parts of the body.”
To promote early detection, the program collaborates with various community organizations, including Calvary Hill Community Church located on the border of the Bayview District. A satellite office of the African American Breast Health Program is located at the church.
“Our congregation began working with this program in October 2007 when Reverend Dyson was the keynote speaker for a Breast Cancer Awareness Month luncheon with approximately 250 women,” says Pastor Joseph Bryant. “We have referred more than 70 members for breast cancer screenings. I don’t think many of them would have gone for screenings without the program.
“Those women who have been screened were very pleased with the high quality of service,” Bryant adds. “Initially, many of them were screened at the California Campus, but now we are encouraging women to visit the St. Luke’s Campus, which is much closer and more accessible for people in our neighborhood.”
Calvary Hill’s collaboration with the program now includes two church volunteers reaching out to other women in the community. In addition, the church hosts monthly meetings of the Sister Circle Breast Cancer Support Group established by the African American Breast Health Program in 2008. Bryant notes: “These high-quality services provided by California Pacific Medical Center are now part of the fabric of our organization and our community.”
For more information about the African American Breast Health Program, call 415-600-7572.