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Innovation SummaryThrough community education and information at Queens Library branches, underinsured library users are guided toward using primary health care providers rather than emergency care. Medical appointments are made at the library and some routine screenings done on-site, in a place the community trusts -- their library.
Queens NY is a county in which half the residents speak a language other than English at home, and 25% have immigrated within the past 10 years. An uncounted but visible percentage of the population is undocumented. Many immigrants and legacy populations are working poor with little or no health insurance.Others are reluctant to apply for public benefits or engage with any agency they consider to be affiliated with the government. As a last result, they use hospital emergency rooms for medical care. Diagnoses come when a preventable or treatable medical condition becomes advanced and hard/expensive/difficult to treat. The percentage of treatable cancers that are diagnosed at late stages is much higher than the national average, particularly in the lower income areas.
Thanks to extensive, long-term outreach to new Americans and legacy populations, Queens residents are frequent users of their library, and trust the information and guidance they get there. Regular library staff, however, are not able to do more than give a list of referrals on questiosn of medical access. They do not ordinarily have the time or the training to assist in making medical appointments or discuss the subtelties of health insurance coverage as part of their regular work assignments.
Queens ConnectCare is a partnership between Queens Library, the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Medical Centers and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Through it, library customers receive health information through the services of a ConnectCare Coordinator at their local library. They attend health-related library programs, which may range from exercise classes to smoking cessation programs to education programs, such as nutrition for diabetics or health weight education. Perhaps most important, they are able to get basic health screenings and make appointments for primary health care right at the library. The ConnectCare Coordinator works with library users so they understand that the referrals will be affordable and that it will not affect immigration status or other benefits. Typically, on-site health screenings might include blood pressure or blood sugar. Primary care appointments include those for obstetric, pediatric, geriatric and dental care.
Library users are patterned to accept that library services are free and that they will not be required to disclose residency status. The children and teens are frequent library users. The environment is a non-threatening and welcoming.
The program is being funded by a grant from the New York State Health Foundation.
ConnectCare began operating in December of 2011. Since then, hundreds of library users have attended education programs and been referred primary medical care. Over the next two years, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine will be doing a formal evaluation of the program to see if it statistically impacts overall community wellness. On a common sense level, proactive and early medical interventions will make an impact. Being guided to that care in a caring environment that the community perceives as non-threatening will make it easier for the user.