In November 2012, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission launched a new media campaign to support the NeighborCare initiative, an effort to eliminate health disparities by improving residents’ access to needed health services in their neighborhoods. Working in close partnership with the city’s community health centers, teaching hospitals, health plans, and health care quality advocates, the initiative hopes to strengthen the capacity of community health centers and hospitals to offer the right care, at the right place, and at the right time.
Argus Communications developed and executed the media campaign to raise awareness about the quality and availability of Boston’s community health centers. The new ads will be displayed at MBTA stations and bus shelters during the month of November. “When you are sick or hurt, call the neighbor you know,” reads one poster. “Care. With you at the center,” it goes on to say.
Community health centers represent the largest primary care network in the state. Boston’s 24 health centers care for more than 300,000 people, or roughly half of the city’s residents, annually. They also represent a major source of care for medically underserved populations. In addition to providing traditional medical care, community health centers offer an array of specialty services such as dental, vision, and behavioral health care. In recent years, Boston’s community health centers have expanded their capacity to provide same-day or walk-in appointments for urgent care, and many centers now have on-site pharmacies as well.
$51 million in recent funding from the federal stimulus and health care reform acts has allowed 14 community health centers in Boston to expand operations, hire new physicians and nurses, upgrade technology, and undertake facility renovation projects. Dorchester House, Codman Square, Mattapan, East Boston, and Whittier Street health centers have all expanded or opened brand new facilities in the past two years.
Data from the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy have shown that emergency departments are frequently used for non-emergency care or for care that could have been provided by a primary care clinician. By promoting community health centers as a front line resource, NeighborCare aims to improve the continuity of care for patients and to reduce the higher costs associated with treating issues such as a sore throat or cough in an emergency department setting.
NeighborCare’s partners have developed a set of guidelines to help transition patients that are treated in Boston’s emergency departments back to their community health centers and to improve communication among all health care providers. The working group that developed this set of best practices reviewed challenges around issues such as data sharing across institutions and the need for the entire health care system to deliver consistent and appropriate education to patients. The simple, straightforward procedures that resulted from the group’s work will be implemented in emergency and community health care settings. This coordination will help ensure that patients receive high quality, seamless care no matter where they are treated.
Mayor Menino announced NeighborCare in his 2011 State of the City address.