Demonstrating what our human right to health care looks like
Put People First Free Health Screening Clinics in PA Communities
by Ash Robbins
This Summer Put People First held Health Screening Clinics at outdoor community events in Central and Southeast Pennsylvania. Volunteer nurses offered blood pressure and blood sugar screenings along with education about chronic disease. Put People First members had meaningful conversations with people about their health and human rights, as well as the social, economic, and environmental root causes of health inequity.
The clinics are a way of meeting people’s immediate needs while also connecting people to collective action. The goal is to expand our membership base and offer a health service that helps us imagine a health care system based in the belief that health care is a human right.
In our current system, where health care is a commodity and not a right, it is difficult to access quality care that treats people fairly. During the clinics we heard stories from people who hadn’t had a routine health screening in years and were uninsured or under-insured. Considering the many barriers to health services, it was not surprising to see people learn, for the first time, that their blood pressure is high. While we were not diagnosing anyone at the clinics, we educated people about their risk for chronic disease. We also met a number of people who already knew they had hypertension (high blood pressure) or diabetes (high blood sugar).
A mother with two young children, living with diabetes, told us she wasn’t sure how high her blood sugar was because she did not have a blood sugar monitor at home. She explained that she has health insurance but it will only pay for one blood sugar monitor per year and she accidentally misplaced her monitor months ago. She will have to appeal and fight with her insurance for a new blood sugar monitor. We tested her sugar and discussed the symptoms of high and low blood sugar, so she knew how to keep herself safe. While anyone with abnormal results or a known diagnosis was referred to a local health center, Put People First members linked these individual health problems to the inadequacy and injustice in our current health care system.
The clinics are an opportunity to experience and practice health care without charge and with dignity. All too often, we are told that our health is a result of our individual choices about food, exercise, smoking, and alcohol. While these things absolutely impact our health, we believe there is more to the story. We believe that people have a much better chance at being healthy when all our basic needs are being met.
During the clinics, alongside nurses performing the screenings, member organizers discussed the health impacts of living without basic needs including jobs with dignity, affordable housing, quality education, clean environment, accessible health care system, the list goes on. Many people at the screening clinics agreed that to truly address our health needs, we must work together in collective action for our human rights. We cannot separate our individual health from the health of our communities. After learning about Put People First’s Health Care is a Human Right Campaign, dozens of people signed up as new members during the Health Screening Clinics.
To find out how to attend a volunteer training, be involved, or to invite us to hold a Health Screening Clinic in your neighborhood contact Ash Robbins – firstname.lastname@example.org