California hospitals launch community health initiative for those in need

Local hospitals in Orange County, California are partnering to offer a new approach to community healthcare. Seven clinics, including five primary care, one specialty clinic, and one pediatric practice, partnered to create Live Healthy OC, a project that prescribes a more "whole-person" approach to care with a focus on patients in economically disadvantaged and underserved communities, according to a September 5 press release.

In 2014, the Health Funders Partnership of Orange County launched a partnership with the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers and the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine and its Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine to improve health and wellness in its community health centers and clinics. Live Healthy OC is funded by the partnership, The Kay Family Foundation, Blue Shield Foundation of California, and the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, and will run through December 2018.

Through the initiative, select clinics in North and Central Orange Cuunty offer group medical visits, nutritional workshops, and introductions to holistic health solutions like yoga, acupuncture, tai chi, and meditation. The program aims to "create a culture of wellness by improving health outcomes, reducing chronic disease, and equipping patients with the knowledge and tools for self-care," according to the press release. Program directors hope to develop an integrative wellness model that can be replicated on a national level, addressing chronic care needs, improving patient quality of life, and reducing healthcare costs.

While the clinics are not the first to incorporate integrative health modalities into their model of care, Rhonda M. Smith, project manager for the initiative, says they are the first to do so with this magnitude. Their network of clinics offers these integrative services to more than 33,000 local patients.

The group medical visit model, in particular, is a service the initiative prides itself on. Groups meet regularly and include between nine and 12 patients. Trained facilitators and health scholars set ground rules, introduce new topics, guide conversations, and engage patients in health-related activities. Clinic physicians measure and chart patients’ progress monthly, keeping track of both mental and physical improvements.

Marco Angulo, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Family Medicine Physician at Serve the People Community Clinic in Santa Ana, says patients thrive in this environment, as they are learning from experts as well as sharing best practices and facing challenges together. Group visits help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation that patients with chronic conditions and related complications often experience and provide a forum for trading effective self-management skills and encouraging self-sufficiency, says Angulo.

Participating clinics are divided into Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 based on when they joined the initiative. The list of members includes Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Center for Inherited Blood Disorders, North Orange County Regional Healthcare Foundation, Serve the People Community Health Center, VNCOC Southland Health Center, Families Together of Orange County, and Korean Community Services, Inc. Representatives from each clinic meet quarterly to discuss progress and best practices.