Looking for free healthcare services?
Look no further than St. Vincent De Paul Joe Latina Center
Government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid offer some assistance, but fall far short of solving the Health-Poverty Trap, leaving the problem to be addressed by nonprofits. Corpus Christi Parish in Temple Terrace hosts the BayCare Health Systems “Faith Community Nursing” (FCN) program, giving low income residents access to medical care from professional nurses who volunteer their time to serve the poor. Their mission is to promote the whole person health of their patients through education, preventive care and improved access to appropriate health services.
Mary Kay Foody, leader of the team of 7 nurses who have been serving Corpus Christi for close to a decade, calls them, “a small but mighty group with many years of nursing experience.” The nurses partner with Corpus Christi’s Saint Vincent de Paul Joe Latina Center, offering consultations on Saturdays in conjunction with the Center’s weekly food distribution.
“We start by checking the basics,” says Foody, “Blood pressure, heart rate, breathing – then offer educational resources, home healthcare supplies, and, when needed, referrals to free clinics in the area.”
BayCare not only provides excellent monthly education pieces (in both English & Spanish), but helps the nurses keep current with certification and licensure. BayCare operates unique Mental Health First Aid courses to build a basic understanding of different types of mental illnesses and how to help individuals struggling with mental health.
The nurses also partner with the Mission Smiles program, bringing a fully-staffed mobile dental health clinic to the Joe Latina Center’s clients at least once a year for the past 6 years. “We see people walking around with painful abcesses and rotting teeth,” says Nurse Foody. “If you have an infection in your mouth, there is infection throughout your body.”
The collaboration between Faith Community Nursing and the Saint Vincent de Paul Joe Latina Center addresses some of the main factors affecting low-income patients – difficulty accessing medication as well as lack of fresh food. When asked about taking medication, many poverty-stricken patients report that they lack funds and/or transportation to refill prescriptions for chronic conditions. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society helps pay for patients’ medications while providing fresh produce and other nutritious foods during the Saturday pantry hours from 9 – 11 a.m.
Nurses from the Faith Community Nursing Ministry are present each Saturday morning during Pantry hours. They meet with clients, assess their health needs, determine resources, educate, and make referrals as warranted. (The pantry is closed on the last Saturday of any month with 5 Saturdays. In 2023, those dates are: April 29, July 29, Sept 30, November 25, and December 23 & 30.)
How you can help
Understanding and Addressing Health Risks Facing the Poor
Study after study by the CDC, AMA, and other watchdog agencies has documented that poverty and poor health are unquestionably linked. The underlying causes are political, social and economic injustices. Poverty is a cause of poor health as well as being a consequence of it. Poverty causes people to be more susceptible to poor health, which traps people and communities in poverty. It’s called the Health-Poverty Trap: a cycle of poor health that results in decreased economic and educational opportunity, which then decreases health and health care access. The Health-Poverty Trap affects women, people of color, and trauma survivors disproportionately.
For many people living in poverty, access to quality health care and resources can be a challenge. Unfortunately, this lack of access can worsen existing health issues or even put people’s lives at risk.
According to the National Institutes of Health, low-income Americans have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic conditions, compared to higher-income Americans. Americans living in families that earn less than $35,000 a year report three to five times more chronic anxiety and depression than those living in families earning more than $100,000 a year. These disparities become apparent even in young children and create delayed language development as well as lifelong negative health outcomes, chronic illness, and shorter life expectancy.
One interesting example shows that poorer neighborhoods have more tobacco retailers; the tobacco industry has intentionally marketed to low-income people. Low-income people are less likely to have access to smoking cessation services and medications. The result is that people in families that earn less than $35,000 a year are three times more likely to smoke as those in families with an annual income of more than $100,000.
Socioeconomic factors also affect life expectancy. Affluent Americans have a longer life expectancy than their low-income neighbors. For people in the lowest income levels, life expectancy is 4.5 years shorter.
There are many factors that contribute to the Health-Poverty Trap:
In a UCLA study that compared higher-income and lower-income Americans, low-income people encountered bigger obstacles to accessing medical care. Low-income workers are often employed by companies that do not offer health benefits – nearly 60 percent of higher-income workers have health insurance through their employers, less than a third of low-income workers enjoy that benefit. Without health insurance, people do not have a regular source of medical care and delay or go without care because of the costs. It also means that preventative care measures are not taken regularly, which can lead to increased risk of developing many illnesses or conditions later in life.
BEHAVIORAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS
Harmful behavioral risk factors – smoking, obesity, substance use, and low levels of physical activity – are more common among low-income Americans. Low-income communities face other challenges that contribute to higher rates of obesity and chronic disease:
- Less access to fresh foods,
- More environmental pollutants,
- Under-resourced schools,
- More fast-food restaurants, and
- More tobacco retailers.
Their neighborhoods also lack green space, sidewalks and parks, limiting physical activity and causing high rates of obesity.
One of the biggest health risks facing those in poverty is poverty-related stressors which cause genetic and hormonal changes that increase the risk of chronic disease. These stressors include:
- Higher levels of violence, discrimination, and material deprivation
- Lack of access to food, shelter, heat, water, and electricity
- High rates of incarceration and unemployment
- Inadequate or unreliable income sources, and
- Limited access to healthcare services.
Studies have shown that these types of stressors can lead to a variety of physical and mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and more. The damage starts early and continues through life.
The Saint Vincent de Paul Joe Latina Center at Corpus Christi Church is grateful for the generous support of Car Credit and its owner, philanthropist, Steve Cuculich. “It’s wonderful to see the dedication of so many volunteers working to help their neighbors in need,” says Cuculich, “I’m humbled and proud to offer some help.”
To learn more about what Nuevo En US is and how it is helping nonprofits in the Tampa bay area go to NuevoEnUS.org