Member Spotlight: El Centro de Corazón
By Perdita Henry
There’s so much more to community than just who lives next door or down the street. Like everything else, the pandemic exposed the necessity of community and how closely tethered our successes and failures are to one another. The health of everyone can impact the community, which is why organizations that seek to positively influence the lives of their local populations are essential.
El Centro de Corazón, founded in 1994, understands the importance of community success. Located in Houston’s East End, it was initially “a social service organization with a focus on early childhood development. [Over the years they] expanded its focus to include the overall health of East End and Houston residents,” Chief Executive Officer, Marcie Mir, LCSW, says.
“Today, El Centro is an accomplished Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with four locations that offer a comprehensive range of healthcare services for underserved, uninsured, and underinsured children and adults. We offer primary care and family medicine, women’s health, dental, and behavioral health services, and provide ancillary services to help patients overcome barriers to accessing healthcare.”
Recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance as a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH), El Centro is one of only eight multi-site healthcare organizations with this distinction within 50 miles of Houston. I got to chat with Mir to find out more about what inspires El Centro’s community outlook and how they go about extending their reach beyond the exam room.
El Centro de Corazón has several community focused programs—like Growing Roots East End Network (GREEN), which revitalizes community gardens, increases access to fresh foods, and improves community cohesion, and the Commit to Be Fit program, which encourages increased physical activity and offers free weekly exercise classes for patients and area residents at three locations in the East End and one in Galena Park. How do you hope these programs impact social determinants of health?
We know that patient health and well-being, as well as positive outcomes, are affected far more outside of our health center walls, so it is critically important for us that we provide programs for our patients and their families that support this concept.
Our vision is to be the cornerstone of a healthy community. To achieve that, we realized we can’t do it alone, and that our purpose must extend beyond those who walk through our doors.
How do you address contraceptive concerns and any misinformation patients may have about different birth control methods?
Providers often have multiple office visits with patients to address family planning, birth control options that center on the patient, and appointments for initiation and follow-up and to address any concerns.
Unfortunately, there are misconceptions that circulate about family planning and specifically birth control side effects. We make use of every encounter to provide education and evidence-based resources to patients. And we encourage other members of the care team to increase their knowledge and collaborate with providers to foster a collaborative learning environment. By providing education to our staff and patients, we hope to effect change for the greater good.
You offer Centering Pregnancy and Centering Parenting programs. Why partner with the Centering Healthcare Institute (CHI) and what has that experience been like?
We partnered with the Centering Healthcare Institute because they’re experts on the centering group-based model. There was also sound data showing positive health outcomes and improved patient satisfaction to support El Centro’s decision to partner with CHI.
They even had one of their board meetings at our Magnolia Health Center, so that the board members could learn more about El Centro and our centering groups. They’ve been a great partner and have provided tremendous support over the past four years.
Why is it important for your organization to be a TWHC member?
Reproductive health remains a priority. It must continue to be at the forefront of policy and social issue discussions. We’re primarily involved in direct patient care, and advocacy, while important, is difficult for us to do. Our membership in TWHC provides a way for the organization to actively participate in advocacy efforts. TWHC solicits member input surrounding setting legislative priorities and agendas, as well as position statements. To know that we are a part of a Coalition dedicated to improving the health and well-being of women and their families is empowering and aligns with our mission and values.
What does an ideal future for women’s health look like according to El Centro de Corazón?
Our ideal future for women’s health looks bright! Women’s health is delicate but powerful, comprehensive and individualized, inclusive and confident. We will continue to strive for women to see this for themselves through patient-centered, comprehensive quality care.