Healthcare is More Than Treating an Illness by Tawanna Williams

What affects our health?

The Health Annex is a clinic located in Southwest Philadelphia that provides an interdisciplinary approach to care for patients regardless of their ability to pay. As a Health Benefits Advocate, I am involved in various aspects of a patient's health. Sometimes I am helping patients apply for health insurance, SNAP, and LiHeap. Other times I am ordering and providing clothing to children through Cradles to Crayons, restocking our food cabinet for patients experiencing food insecurity or hosting a health insurance event to educate patients.Throughout my time at the Health Annex, I have learned that in order to help a person be healthy, you have to focus on more than treating an illness. Providing medication for the cold or flu is important, but health encompasses so much more. Patients often come to the Health Annex for a regular check-up, but after you engage with them you learn there are multitudes of issues that the patient is experiencing. In meeting with patients, I find myself addressing problems with their housing, mental health, family issues, not having enough food, clothing and many other things. While serving in this capacity, I realized that my role was more than providing health insurance; I am a listening ear and a connection to resources patients never knew existed or need help accessing. More importantly, it is about being able to educate patients to the best of my ability.

I believe that all health facilities should look at more than treating illnesses and diseases; they should use a holistic approach to healthcare that includes addressing food insecurity, clothing, housing, mind body health, nutrition, education, and advocacy. My service with NHC shows me that in order to treat a person’s health, you need to take a holistic integrated approach and explore how external factors can also have an impact on a person’s physical health. Lack of nutrition, heating, and food cannot be treated with medicine. However, education, awareness, and those who are capable to speak out and advocate in underserved and underprivileged communities can help relieve these many issues. I believe my experiences at the Health Annex will make me a better person both professionally and personally by continuing to advocate for people who aren’t able to advocate for themselves.