Affinia Healthcare brings clinic to Ferguson to help eliminate health disparities
Low-income families and those without insurance in north St. Louis County will have more access to medical and dental services at Affinia Healthcare’s new Ferguson clinic.
Starting next week, the 15,000-square-foot location will offer women’s health care, pediatrics, dental care, substance abuse treatment services, lactation support, case management and family medicine. The clinic includes a pharmacy and midwifery services.
Medical care at the nearly $10 million medical clinic at 3396 Pershall Road will be led by three African American women physicians from the St. Louis region.
“What you see with this health center is actually health justice and action,” said Kendra Holmes, CEO of Affinia Healthcare. “We're going to make sure that Black people have access to better care … and we're making sure that the people who are providing it look like the community that they're representing.”
After a community assessment of health disparity data in the area, Holmes said Affinia Healthcare officials noticed that there are some areas in Ferguson where health care is available, but overall the city is in a health care desert.
Officials decided on a Ferguson location because of the rise in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes and lead poisoning in the area. Holmes hopes with this Affinia Healthcare site, access to health care will be easier for communities of color, especially for Black patients.
About 8,600 people in the area could receive care annually. The two-story clinic has 19 medical exam rooms, six dental examination spaces, community workshop rooms and laboratory areas. People also can get help with filling out Medicaid applications.
“By putting it all together, we're hoping to eliminate some of those barriers like transportation and having to make multiple trips,” Holmes said.
Affinia Healthcare also is partnering with the Emerson YMCA to provide additional services and programming that could help keep families active and healthy.
Family medicine physician Kristia Abernathy never had a Black doctor growing up in north St. Louis County. She said if there were more doctors who looked like her years ago, many of the illnesses and health concerns in her community could have been minimized.
Abernathy is aware that African Americans are leery about going to the doctor because they have faced racism within the health care system or have been mistreated by medical staff. She hopes the Black doctors at the Ferguson clinic can combat some of those fears and provide quality health care.
“I've always wanted to come back home and serve this population, because we need it,” Abernathy said. “We need to educate and we need to prevent health illnesses, so that people can live longer.”
Holmes said she intentionally brought on Black women doctors to treat patients to help improve Black health outcomes in the Ferguson area.
“All the data suggests that if you are a Black individual and you are treated by a Black physician, your diabetes outcomes are better, your cardiovascular outcomes are better, and you actually go to more screenings,” Holmes said.
Dana Carter, a family medicine nurse practitioner, is focusing her practice on educating her patients on preventive health care. She wants them to know about the chronic illnesses that plague Black communities. She plans on providing pamphlets and comprehensive knowledge to help her patients take care of themselves outside of the clinic.
Carter also wants to help people in the area who are struggling with substance abuse. Through Affinia Healthcare’s substance use disorder treatment and behavioral health services, Carter is hoping to get patients healthy first and then treat their addiction.
“We want to be able to … give you help for substance abuse for you and your family,” she said. “Everybody struggles when there's a person that's addicted to anything.”
Pediatrician Iesha Draper’s goal is to connect families and children to resources they need to live healthier lives. She said it is necessary since there are too many Black children who are premature or born at low birth weights because the mother struggled with high stress levels or complications that were coupled with biases in the health care system.
She hopes the clinic will make Black people excited to take exams, visit their doctors for preventative care and learn more about managing diseases.
“It's more of a partnership than anything, not just like checking off a box because school says you need vaccines,” Draper said. “I'm going to ask a bunch of questions, and I'm going to give a bunch of guidance, but it's because it matters. We don't know what we don't know.”