By February 2023, the Shelby County Government plans to launch ShelbyCares on 3research and developmentWith the goal of connecting Shelby County residents with health coaches and primary care providers.
The program, which builds on a pioneering foundation at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, is part of Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris’ Commitment to Healthcare priority during the last four years of his administration.
“We think if there are more people connected to a doctor — just someone you can call when something isn’t feeling right and who can tell you to come in — we think that can help save lives, change lives, and change the course of Memphis and Shelby County,” said Memphis and Shelby County. Daniel Inez, director of the Shelby County Office of Innovation and Performance Analysis and one of the pioneers of the ShelbyCares project.
ShelbyCares on 3research and development It will be staffed with four health coaches, UTHSC employees who have passed the UTHSC Health Trainers Training Certificate. It will also consist of two Shelby County government employees, including one from the Department of Health and possibly one from Community Services.
In addition, an off-site medical director through UTHSC will be available for consultations.
On-site health coaches will screen for common health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, will provide health coaching on things like healthy eating, weight loss and smoking cessation, and will help clients connect to their primary care providers and needed specialists.
In addition to performances, the facility will offer programs such as healthy meal planning and yoga.
All services will be free.
“We connect with them in a dynamic way, but we also use it as an opportunity to build a relationship between them and a health coach so they have a healthy partner,” Inez said.
UTHSC launched its own facility, the UTHSC Uptown Health Hub pilot, in Uptown Memphis last November. This form will be used for the new ShelbyCares on 3research and development.
At the Uptown Health Hub, some clients were referred from local providers because they needed help managing conditions like diabetes, said Jim Bailey, executive director of the Tennessee Population Health Consortium at UTHSC and another ShelbyCares project leader.
“A lot of patients want support with these things, so we’ve found that coaches who are in close proximity can basically support the treatment plan,” Bailey said. “We want to create an open door where people can find their way to better health and services that they really need, that is friendly and easy. Easy and accessible in neighborhoods where it is needed most.”
The need is great in many parts of Shelby County.
In some ZIP codes in southern and northern Memphis, fewer than 40% of adults get one or more primary care visits annually, according to data from the Alliance for Diabetes Prevention and Wellness Registry and Practice-Based Research Network, which is located in Memphis.
At the same time, more than half of adults in the same ZIP codes have one or more emergency department visits each year, and more than a quarter receive one or more hospital visits annually.
“We are all becoming aware of the disparities in health outcomes based on where you live,” said Bailey.
In these zip codes, people without primary care providers instead go to the hospital or emergency department when they are “fatally sick, for what we call rescue care” when they should have been treated at the front end, Bailey said.
Not only will ShelbyCares help diagnose issues like diabetes or high blood pressure, but the programming will also address societal determinants of health, since Shelby County Government has services ranging from rental assistance to food assistance.
ShelbyCares is more than just one facility — although Inez hopes to open at least three total facilities like it — but it will also consist of mailing information to county residents, including reminders of screenings that must occur at certain ages and referrals to providers Services.
They aim to collaborate with the religious community, community centers such as restaurants and local small businesses, and with health and wellness organizations already in Shelby County.
“We have to assume that people appear every day wanting to live and that the decisions they make are a reflection of their access to the information they have,” Inez said. “So how do we give them access to better information, how do we give them access to better choices, how do we remove barriers to good health?”
Currently, there is two years of funding to run ShelbyCares, in the form of $4.5 million in US Bailout Act funding.
The ShelbyCares initiative will partner with Christ Community Health Center, which will lease space to the Shelby County government on the South Memphis campus, Shelby County Health Department and UTHSC, which will manage the day-to-day operations of the facility.
Catherine Burgess covers county government and religion. She can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @kathsburgess.
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