In 2017, resolve to make better health a top priority

Special to the Gazette

At the start of this new year, the Williamsburg Health Foundation wants to issue a challenge: As you make your New Year's resolutions, consider working to improve not only your own health but also the health of the entire community. When your neighbors have opportunities to be healthy, everyone benefits.

Access to health care is one of the most significant social determinants of health – without it, staying healthy becomes much more difficult. To put it bluntly, without the ability to get health care, people get sicker and die sooner. Serious health problems go undetected and disease diagnoses come too late. Even when patients do get diagnosed, they are unlikely to stick to expensive medications and complex treatment plans. Without disease prevention and management, emergency rooms are often left to pick up the pieces – and the bill.

But health insurance isn't a silver bullet.

Many factors, financial and otherwise, limit access to medical care, including discouraging waits for appointments, unreliable transportation, great distances to travel, few evening or weekend appointments available and no childcare. These are only a few examples.

You might think, so what? My family has insurance. We go to our trusted primary care doctor. We can afford medication. Why should we care if our neighbor does? Because, your neighbors' health affects your own – and not just when you catch the flu.

When people can't reach their full potential, neither does their community. Poor health and poverty form a vicious cycle, and local economies and safety-net services struggle under the burden.

Greater Williamsburg is lucky. Since the 1990s, four local clinics have worked to provide health care to the under-served and vulnerable: Olde Towne Medical and Dental Center, the Lackey Clinic, Angels of Mercy Medical Clinic, and the Gloucester-Mathews Care Clinic. Together they saw more than 7,800 patients in 2016 alone, many with complex chronic conditions.

People with a "medical home" – where they receive consistent, comprehensive care – are able to access the health services, and get the health results, many of us take for granted. The clinics are such homes, providing preventive care, state-of-the-art screenings, timely appointments and tests, and evening hours at least once a week.

Your health and the health of the community are linked, and all of the clinics need your help. When you support our hometown clinics, you strengthen our hometown and yourself. Here's how you can help:

•Olde Towne Medical and Dental Center needs volunteers, as well as monetary and material donations: for information, call the volunteer coordinator at (757) 259-3260 or visit their website, www.oldetownemedicalcenter.org.

•The Director of Volunteers at Lackey Clinic can be reached at (757) 886-0608 (ext. 233), and its website details a variety of ways to give. check out www.lackeyclinic.org/giving-options/.

•For an application to volunteer at the Gloucester-Mathews Care Clinic, visit them online at www.gmcareclinic.com; there's a donate button on their website as well.

•To donate to Angels of Mercy, go to www.angelsofmercy.org/donate.

Goad works at the Williamsburg Health Foundation. The Foundation works to improve the health of those in the Greater Williamsburg area through financial and educational support.

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