Source Newsroom: Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Newswise — The nation's surging immigrant population has strained the lattice of government health care programs and safety-net agencies already stretched thin by the ballooning population of other uninsured Americans. As the 2008 presidential election draws nearer, debate continues over immigration and health care reform. Meanwhile, U.S. doctors must find innovative, cost-effective ways to care for these new Americans.
A national authority on health care concerns among underserved populations, Steven C. Larson, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine and assistant dean for Global Health Programs at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, can share insights on novel ways in which the government can provide quality health care for all Americans.
In 2003, Larson launched Puentes de Salud, a program that has since grown to be a national model for promoting good health among recent immigrant populations. Serving Philadelphia's Latino community, which has grown by 25 percent over the past decade, the organization provides a comprehensive slate of health care services -- treatment for chronic conditions, women's health care, cancer screenings and childhood vaccines, among others. Its volunteers also tackle the social and environmental hazards in clients' neighborhoods that often serve as barriers to wellness.
Larson's work provides a clear road map for low-cost, community-based solutions to reducing and eliminating health care disparities.
"The path we have followed to improve this community's health crosses ethnic lines and geographic boundaries," Larson says. "We hope that our work in South Philadelphia will guide the U.S. healthcare system towards a more equitable and effective future that ultimately ensures the wellness of all Americans."
Funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, Puentes de Salud is now at work on a randomized trail examining the efficacy of the program's "promotoras," who will lead interactive workshops on cervical cancer in the Latina community. Larson and his team are hopeful that this education will motivate more women to get screened for the disease " a model that could also be applied to chronic disease management.
As an attending physician in a busy metropolitan emergency room that provides care to many low-income patients, he can also discuss the larger issues of how uninsured patients across all racial and ethnic groups struggle to access government programs and medical care. His years of practice provides sobering and instructive anecdotes about the ways in which chronic conditions, when left untreated because of limited access to care, can blossom into costly, life-threatening emergencies.
PENN Medicine is a $3.5 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #4 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to most recent data from the National Institutes of Health, received over $379 million in NIH research funds in the 2006 fiscal year. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals — its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation's top 10 "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S.News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.