Health advocates gathered Thursday to embark on a yearlong series of projects they hope will improve access to better health care for those in need.
The Greater Augusta Healthcare Network, a loose coalition of providers, hospitals and public health advocates, launched four working groups to focus on different barriers to the underserved and uninsured getting care.
Augusta is in need in areas such as obesity, smoking and health insurance, said Dr. Lucy Marion, the dean of Georgia Health Sciences University’s College of Nursing and the secretary for the network.
“Forty-four thousand people don’t have health insurance in our one little county,” she said.
Another major problem in Augusta is a high rate of sexually transmitted diseases. Now, instead of just talking about such challenges, the group is “moving from data to action,” she said.
For instance, there was a need for a centralized collection of information on what help is available out there. United Way’s 2-1-1 service should fit that bill but health providers aren’t using it enough, coordinator Nancy Szocinski said.
“Providers don’t know how valuable 2-1-1 is to them,” she said.
One working group vowed to try to educate more about the service, with speakers and perhaps ads on buses, to get the word out. There is also a need for community groups to partner more, particularly on grant applications, said Kim Blanchard, the executive director of Coordinated Health Services Inc.
“We have got to be in this together,” she said. “Collaboration is key.”
The working groups, which are also looking at funding, health literacy and transportation barriers, will report back to the network every couple of months as a way of maintaining accountability, Marion said.