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Erie Family Health Centers’ “Health-Ownership” Model Improves Patient Outcomes

Erie Family Health Centers’ “Health-Ownership” Model Improves Patient Outcomes

Successful Model Integrates Medical Practices with Lifestyle and Behavioral Changes

Erie Family Health Centers, a community health system providing high-quality and affordable health care to Chicagoans, continues to see successful patient health outcomes due to its integrated “health-ownership” model. Through this system-wide approach to care, patients are guided to take ownership of their health to reduce and better treat preventable chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and even poor bone health.

Traditional healthcare models have almost always been about “sick care” and medical interventions once an individual becomes ill or injured. However, with about half of all American adults living with preventable chronic diseases, many of which can be attributed to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity, medical professionals know that the best results come from patients who take ownership of their health and make behavioral changes in their homes. Recognizing the correlation between patients’ health and wellness practices decades ago, Erie has effectively been integrating proactive preventative services into its service delivery since the very beginning. After years of fine-tuning these practices, this model is demonstrating improved health outcomes, as seen in Erie’s diabetes programs, in which 75 percent of its diabetic patients maintain well-controlled glucose levels.

“Health care is evolving. What happens to patients between doctor’s appointments is as important as, or even more important than, what happens during an appointment,” said Dr. Lee Francis, President and CEO of Erie Family Health Centers. “Taking ownership of your health by changing certain behaviors, such as eating healthier foods and exercising, can be just as crucial to your health as taking medicine in specific circumstances. We want our patients to be healthy and have these programs in place to help guide and encourage them to be healthy on their own.”

Erie Family Health Centers’ “health-ownership” model combines traditional medical practices with additional wellness programs lead by health educators trained in lifestyle and behavioral changes. Each patient goes through a medical and behavioral screening process to assess medical and wellness needs. The assessments help Erie staff understand each patient’s level of motivation or readiness to make a behavioral change, such as those related to obesity, healthy eating or smoking. Staff then determines which programs are best suited for each individual, and patients are encouraged to become active participants in the wellness programs. To help this process, Erie provides support through ongoing consultations, follow-up calls and long-term specialized care when appropriate.

Each of the wellness programs are educational, culturally-sensitive and hands-on to help participants seamlessly take ownership of their own health and lifestyle. Erie Family Health Centers offers wellness programs such as –

  • Diabetes Month-by-Month: a monthly education class to help participants understand diabetes and how to better control it
  • Diabetes Prevention Program: an intensive, evidence-based lifestyle program helping at-risk participants avoid being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes
  • La Vida Sana, La Vida Feliz: an exercise and nutrition program for pre-diabetic participants
  • Share Our Strength’s® Cooking Matters: a class that teaches participants how to cook healthy meals on a budget

In addition to such classes, Erie also offers the USDA’s WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program and a running club. A partnership with Top Box Foods was also created to help participants buy high-quality fruits, vegetables and protein at a discounted rate. Each of these programs contribute to serving all of Erie’s patients, an overwhelming percentage of whom come from low-income and Latino communities. Such populations face barriers to accessing healthy foods and active living opportunities, making these programs all the more necessary to achieve successful patient health outcomes.

Recognized as a “Health Center Quality Leader” for the past three years by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Erie Family Health Centers’ clinical support team and medical providers continue to work hard to address social determinants of health through education and wellness programs that have proven to directly improve health outcomes.