Access Community Health Network: 2005-2006

Diabetes and other chronic diseases cause untold pain and suffering, consume a significant proportion of families’ and the national’s health care budget, and often disproportionately affect people who are Hispanic and/or African American.

Access Community Health Network (ACCESS) turned to the Washington Square Health Foundation (WSHF) for support to develop a diabetes management program for low-income and medically underserved communities. ACCESS provides primary and preventive care to 210,000 uninsured and low-income individuals every year through its network of 47 health centers in Chicago and suburban Cook and DuPage Counties. More than 10,000 of these patients have diabetes. Similar numbers have asthma and hypertension.

The comprehensive diabetes care model that ACCESS developed, with the support of WSHF and other foundations, includes (a) health education and self-management tools for patients and (b) provider supports, including treatment flowsheets, that ensure patients are getting care that meets the standards for best practices, e.g., regular HbA1c tests and foot and vision examinations plus annual screenings for depression, a common problem among people with chronic conditions. These tools are complemented by a continuous quality improvement system that gives providers timely feedback on patient care and patient outcomes.
WSHF’s grant was particularly important to ACCESS as it was the first grant for organization’s diabetes and chronic disease management strategies; five other foundations have since made similar and related grants.

The diabetes program has been so successful that it has been adapted for other chronic conditions, including asthma and cardiovascular health, and exported to other realms of health care, such as a new initiative to improve immunization rates among infants and toddlers in low-income communities.

ACCESS’ chronic disease program was presented at the October 2006 annual conference of the American Public Health Association.   The slides of the full presentation can be found here.