Next year is Hudson Headwaters Health Network’s 40th anniversary. As with any major milestone, it is a time to celebrate and reflect.
Community health centers like Hudson Headwaters have a deep history of serving patients whose needs were not being met elsewhere. What started as small health centers in Mound Bayou, Mississippi and Columbia Point, Boston, as part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty and in the context of the civil rights movement, has grown to include 7,500 sites across the country serving more than 29 million people. Moreover, community health centers have become the foundation of the nation’s primary care system. Our mission to provide accessible, high-quality health care regardless of an ability to pay was a groundbreaking concept when we opened our first health center in Chestertown. Today, with 19 health centers (and growing!), it’s clear that our approach and work is vital to the health and well-being of our communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with events and protests across the US, have brought persistent and systemic racial and social inequalities to the forefront. In response to this, both the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians have declared racism a public health emergency and now more than ever, attention is being paid to health equity— the understanding that everyone should have the opportunity to attain their highest level of health. Our mission statement emphasizes that we provide accessible care to everyone in the communities we serve, and for forty years, we’ve helped our patients live healthier lives so they can make the most out of each and every day. But it’s now time to take a closer look, as both a provider of care and a large employer, to ensure we’re equally including everyone regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or beliefs.
To provide the best possible care for all patients now and into the future, I am pleased to announce the creation of Hudson Headwaters CARES (Culturally Appropriate and Responsive Education and Services): The Task Force for Health Equity. Staff from various departments and community members, invited by me, will review our messaging, approach to care and employment to make sure we are inclusive of everyone in the communities that we serve, just as our mission states. At first glance, the North Country may not appear that diverse but I think if we take the time to look closer, with the goal of better understanding the perspective of others, we’ll be certain to find opportunities to improve.
Our renewed commitment to building an inclusive health care network is crucial to expanding accessibility and improving quality, the cornerstones of our mission. As we enter our 40th year, we will honor our legacy by continuing to promote a culture of care that is truly for everyone.
In good health,
Tucker Slingerland, M.D.