“Is that yours?” a surprised 9-year old had asked me as I had unlocked my bike from a post at the Martin Luther King Jr. Rec Center in South L.A. last weekend.
“Yes,” I had said. “Girls ride bikes, too.”
He gave me a high five and flashed me a toothy grin.
Much to my horror, I saw that at least five of his front teeth were completely capped in silver.
He’s not the first kid I’ve come across with a mouth full of silver baby teeth. Dental hygiene is a significant issue in lower-income communities like South L.A.
Which is why it was wonderful to see the grand opening of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center’s new Health and Wellness Campus yesterday. The new site, located across the street from their existing clinic on 58th and Hoover, will not only be meeting the medical needs of as many as 30,000 new patients, but will also offer dental care for young children.
White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas were both on hand to celebrate the grand opening of the new center, encourage people to enroll in Covered California, and underscore the notion that health care is a right, not a privilege.
What I believe makes St. John’s an important community center, however, is not that they can serve so many patients. It is how they do it.
They have built important partnerships with community organizations active in the area.
Yesterday, for example, you could get help signing up for health insurance with Community Coalition, an organization that has actively worked to educate hard-to-reach populations about the Affordable Health Care Act.
If you wanted to learn about bike safety, staff from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) were there. Colin Bogart, LACBC Education Director, had also recently dropped off a donation of several bikes to the center, as they are looking to launch a bike club for their patients. (If you’re interested in volunteering to help out with monthly maintenance of the bikes, please contact Colin at colin(at)la-bike.org)
Community Services Unlimited was also there, offering healthy produce for sale. They normally have a stand there Monday mornings from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., providing patients with a reliable source of organic produce and offering them the potential of attending gardening and cooking workshops.
Beyond the partnerships, the way St. John’s works to treat the whole patient is key in a community where understanding residents’ daily struggles is important to addressing the root causes of their health problems. Read more…