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LRMC’s Commitment Remains to Build a Healthier Community

Thursday, March 21 2013

A national ranking is something many covet, but not when it’s a negative label – especially when it’s about the place you call home.  That’s how our community felt when the Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index named us among the most obese cities in the nation.  And groups throughout our region decided to do something about it – such as Polk Vision who drew organizations county-wide to form “Building a Healthier Polk.”

 According to a new study, it seems as though things are looking up, but not by much. 

 This week, the 2013 rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin regarding county health outcomes were revealed.  While Polk County improved slightly from last year’s rankings, we are still ranked 30th (out of 67 counties in Florida) in health outcomes and 43 in health factors.  The health outcomes represent how healthy a county is, while the health factors represent what influences the health of the county.

One health factor which the survey indicates has a direct impact on the health of the community is access to healthcare.  Today, Polk County has only 1 primary care physician for every 2,086 residents, compared to 1,439 in Florida.  Consequently, Polk’s health outcomes are proving to be lower in nearly all health outcome measures, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. 

 Lakeland Regional is taking a leadership position in combatting this epidemic.  In 2012, we opened the Lakeland Regional Family Health Center to bring greater access to primary care.  The Family Health Center (FHC) is a seven-day-a-week medical home that offers high quality, low cost primary care to the uninsured and underinsured members of the community. 

As of January 2013, more than 2,500 patients initially treated in the LRMC ER have been transitioned to and are now cared for in their new medical home at the Family Health Center. Also, since opening the FHC, more than 1,500 patients who initially presented at the LRMC ER with non-emergency conditions have been established as patients at the FHC. Combined, these patients have benefitted from more than 8,000 clinic visits at the FHC. These visits include, not only initial treatment, but also critical follow-up treatment and education that impacts quality of life and overall health.  The goal at the FHC is not just to treat illnesses, but to also provide preventive care, health screenings and management of chronic conditions.

“We have made great strides. However, there is still much work to be done. That is why Lakeland Regional is steadfastly working to bring a graduate medical education program to our community with the goal of having more than 200 clinical residents by 2020 – most of which will be centered on primary care,” said Elaine Thompson, PhD, CEO and president of Lakeland Regional Health Systems.  “We believe providing every member of our community access to the highest quality and lowest possible cost of care is fundamental to our founding mission.”

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