Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=158186
Story Retrieval Date: 5/22/2013 10:41:12 PM CST
The city’s federally funded health centers are facing a dilemma. In order to gather the funding needed to serve their communities, they’re relying on the upcoming census count.
Unfortunately, their patients don’t want to be counted.
So these centers, which have made valiant efforts to serve Chicago’s low-income and minority communities, will partner with the U.S. Census Bureau to market the national count to their patients.
“Community health centers target low-income, mainly minority communities where health care resources are very limited,” said Kathryn McLain, director of external affairs for the Chicago Family Health Center. Her center provides resources to eight community areas on the South Side, serving primarily African-American and Hispanic communities.
To receive the funding necessary to provide quality primary care, the center relies on accurate census counts. “This is very important for the money that we receive as a federally qualified health center,” McLain said. “The communities that our health center targets are undercounted and allocations for health funding aren’t accurate.”
Nationally, the communities served by these health centers are the populations typically left out of the census.
McLain said her patients’ hesitancy to fill out census data is based in fear.
“Immigrant populations are often very intimidated and fearful of any kind of government program – somebody with a clipboard asking questions,” McLain said. “They’re reluctant that their information – name, address, age and so forth – would be shared with immigration officials. They want to stay under the radar.”
The same holds true among the North Side’s Asian communities.
“Whether it is Hispanic or Asian immigrants, the issues are the same,” said Dr. Muhammad Paracha, the director of the Asian Human Services Family Health Center. “They are afraid of giving information about themselves. Whether they are here legally or illegally, somehow there is this feeling that this information they are providing will be shared with somebody else.”
Paracha heads the only Asian-based community health center in the Midwest. “Clinical data for Asians is hard to find,” he said, “even though there are so many Asians living in Chicago. Census data is not inclusive of all immigrant populations.”
Both health centers are going to combat the stigma attached to the census on their own turf. “We will have a census assistance table in the patient waiting area,” McLain said. “It will be staffed by census employees who will assist patients in completing their forms. We’re also putting up posters and informing our patients about it in the context of a primary care visit.”
The census means more than just funding.
“It is the basis for our political representation,” McLain said. “To lose any representative dilutes our influence in Congress to advocate for our patients and our issues.”
“We have a vested interest so that everyone is counted accurately,” McLain said. “We advocate that patients are counted so they can receive a broad array of services based on the calculation.”