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Augusta Health receives national award for providing health equity to vulnerable communities

Courtesy of Augusta Health.

Augusta Health was one of two national awardees honored at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Health Equity Conference on May 30, 2024, with a Health Equity Award.

The award is presented to organizations that advance health equity by reducing disparities in healthcare access, quality and outcomes.

Augusta Health was recognized for improving access to healthcare in vulnerable communities. The hospital, aiming to be a national model for community-based healthcare, implemented Augusta Health Neighborhood Clinics, previously known as Primary Care Mobile Clinic, to reach neighborhoods with rural geographic barriers and local cities with high poverty rates and adverse social and health barriers.

Since its official launch in September 2022, the Augusta Health Neighborhood Clinics have expanded to operate at 14 unique sites each month. This expansion has been possible due to the support of community partners, who provide local expertise in crucial social services like housing and food insecurity.

“A driver of this program was the belief that our mission as a community health system had broadened through the COVID-19 pandemic to become more inclusive, collaborative, and responsive to addressing local health disparities,” said Dr. Clint Merritt, Chief Physician Executive/Chief Medical Officer of Augusta Health. “Our system quickly realized we needed to adapt to address insufficient patient access to primary care. A key step was identifying access barriers and health disparities by asking questions of our community members through listening sessions. In response, Augusta Health launched the first Neighborhood Clinics and designed programming specific to those vulnerable neighborhoods.”

CMS recognized the Augusta Health Neighborhood Clinics for:
• Increasing community members’ access to primary care.
• Reducing unnecessary emergency room utilization to ensure patients receive appropriate care at the right time and location.
• And improving outcomes and markers of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Within the program’s first full year, the Neighborhood Clinics have made a significant impact, providing over 1,700 primary care visits for 825 patients at 17 community sites. Services vary by location and are based on community needs.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.