The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

"Health Houses" Idea Wins International Attention for Delta Health Care Innovations

Posted on March 03, 2010 at 02:25 PM

The Delta Caucus wholeheartedly supports the innovative, internationally recognized Community Health House Network for improving health care at the local level in the Greater Delta Region, and we are pleased that Dr. Aaron Shirley of the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation and James Miller of Oxford International Development Group in Mississippi will explain this concept at our April 1-2 conference at the Clinton Center.

NBC Nightly News is scheduled to air a segment tomorrow, March 4, on the Greenwood, Mississippi Health House and this will provide a good overview of the approach and how it addresses the challenges of health disparities in the Delta.

Dr. Aaron Shirley is a health care/civil rights pioneer in the great state of Mississippi, and he is promoting this World Health Organization-endorsed primary health care concept that, over thirty years, completely eliminated major health disparities between the rural and urban population in Iran. Dr. Shirley and his colleagues traveled to Iran to confer with doctors, health care professionals and university officials there and are adapting these programs to the Delta.

In addition to the national media coverage, the National Institutes of Health, and the venerable British medical journal The Lancet have expressed great interest in this innovation. The London Times called this a “Ground-breaking project.” With the current logjam in health care legislation in Washington, DC we are glad to have a grassroots initiative on health care that is so dynamic.

This project has no connection to the Iranian political climate, and is about scientists, doctors, universities and community leader, and a process of sharing ideas. Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, US and Soviet doctors kept the lines of communication open - one group even was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in “health diplomacy.”

We now have 110 RSVPs for the April 1-2 conference with more registering every day so it would be advisable to register soon if you are interested in participating. Information on the “Health Houses” concept in this message below comes from Dr. Shirley, James Miller, and media articles.

Mississippi Community Health House Network

The state of Mississippi ranks last in many national health surveys. Indicators include high levels of infant mortality, low birth weight infants, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and obesity, and much of the rest of the Greater Delta Region unfortunately suffers from similarly dismal health care problems. These statistics have remained static for years, despite the third highest national per capita expenditures on health services by the Health Resources Services Administration. The current health care system at both the state and national level has not achieved the desired results; new ideas are urgently needed.

A public/private partnership led by Jackson Medical Mall Foundation has responded by developing a new, community-based primary care strategy adapted from international programs proven effective in similar demographic areas to that of the Delta, especially in communities with high rates of poverty and poor health outcomes. The resulting model, the Community Health House Network (CHHN), stresses community and personal responsibility and emphasizes cost-saving preventive care over expensive curative care.

The CHHN provides a mechanism for tracking outcomes and controlling costs by increasing efficiency and bottom-up coordination between all levels in the current system – community health clinics/practices and hospitals. It provides inexpensive primary healthcare access in areas currently lacking those services. The CHHN also utilizes specially trained health workers selected from the target service areas as a way to encourage community participation and to address the acute regional and national shortage of primary health care providers.

These Community Health Workers are trained to be pro-active wellness advocates, to seek out those who need help to prevent disease. An important aspect of their work will be educating the people of their community about proper nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Community Health Workers will be trained to view community health in a more holistic way - including the social determinants of health. Increasingly, these “causes of the causes” of health outcomes must be considered, rather than only narrow risk factors. The CHHN will work to address key social factors related to economic and educational issues that impact health by promoting not just health and wellness programs, but community development as well.

The Community Health House Network is a simple, cost-effective model that has been proven internationally - and is applicable for the Delta.

Leaders of the Health Houses concept are working on a pilot demonstration to prove viability at 15 sites in Mississippi, although the demonstration is scalable to the entire Delta region. The more sites, the better to track outcomes, combine resources, train community health workers, and implement this primary care strategy as part of a new approach to health reform in those areas that need it the most. Given the gridlock regarding health reform, our grassroots partners may be able to give Congress something they can agree on!

Dr. Aaron Shirley of the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation based in Jackson, Mississippi is working with Jackson State University professionals, the Oxford International Development Group in Mississippi and others on this innovative initiative for health care in the Delta that we will be promoting at the April 1-2 Delta conference and in other venues.

James Miller, based in Oxford, Mississippi with the Oxford International Development Group, said the radically different model is a chance for Mississippi to redeem its unfortunate status as the most unhealthy state in America. “I’m convinced that as we adopt this, we have the potential to improve a lot,” Miller said. “Instead of being 50th, we can be a leader.” Arkansas unfortunately is often ranked 49th in many of these statistics, and other areas of the Delta similarly urgently need health care improvements

With the current logjam on health care reform, it’s good to have something positive about health care to work on.

Dr. Shirley and James Miller will be giving presentations on the health houses concept at our conference on April 1-2. Thanks–Lee Powell, MDGC (202) 360-6347