“Hot and Heavy: The Healthcare Debate” (July 2013)

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By: Saffie Kamara

Districtly Speaking and the Chronic Illness Foundation of America, Inc. held a joint town hall in July on a “Hot & Heavy” Healthcare debate. Panelists for this community forum included Lauren Jones, Esq. on Healthcare Legislation, Lisa Henderson, Psychologist, Vee Solomon, Chronic Illness Foundation of America, Inc. (CIFA) and Chronic Illness Advocate and Tom Nassif, American University, Doctoral Candidate & Stress Management Professor.

The discussion allowed panelists and community members to educate one another on certain laws, diseases, and resources that individuals could utilize.

According to Jones, healthcare assistance has improved throughout DC, Maryland and Virginia.

“Access to care has increased. If you live in Maryland or Virginia you will see an increase in more public insurance,” Jones said.

Jones also mentioned that there are Medicaid regulations enforcing equal quality to patients.

“States are looking into these regulations to enforce equal quality,” Jones said.

Although, there are certain improvements in the healthcare system, there are still major issues that individuals addressed during the discussion.

Solomon expressed that she too is dealing with health conditions and mentioned her challenges while seeking treatment.

“I worked for a Fortune 500 company. I didn’t have a mom and pop insurance company. And I was still categorized as investigative. I remember going into surgery, still fighting for coverage,” Solomon said.

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Solomon was not the only person overcoming obstacles in the healthcare system. A community member mentioned that her ill mother was dealing with psychiatric issues due to depression and anxiety caused by her actual illness. She also mentioned that seeking a psychiatrist within city limits was a challenge as well.

“Making an appointment for a psychiatrist takes six months up to a year,” she said.

Other community members made it clear that finances also play a big role in the lack of healthcare access. Another topic that sparked debate was preventative care. A community member asked what the medical community was doing to enhance it.

Nassif mentioned that individuals should pay more attention to what they put into their bodies.

“We don’t know some of the things that we are eating and drinking,” Nassif said.

He also mentioned that individuals who were not mentally healthy would have more challenges trying to maintain their health physically.

“Our immune system is intimately connected to our thoughts and emotions which are intimately connected to our nervous system. Wounds are healed faster when you’re not stressed. People should have more positive emotions,” Nassif said.

Henderson agreed that mental and physical health were connected.

“Your mental health affects your physical health, you can’t leave one without the other,” Henderson said.

As chronic illness was mentioned during the discussion, Nassif mentioned that chronic pain was the biggest chronic disease that individuals suffered from.

When dealing with illness whether it be mental or physical, there is an emotional impact on your surroundings. Therefore, having a strong support system is important during this time.

“The biggest fear that comes with chronic illness, comes with the uncertainty if you’re living with something for a long period of time, it doesn’t only affect you it affects those in your circle,” Henderson said.

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Solomon felt that eventually, everyone would be affected because the healthcare issue has become an epidemic in America. Being able to improve the healthcare system would not only consist of those who are sick according to Solomon.

“I like to talk to those who aren’t sick because they have the energy and they can help those who are sick,” Solomon said.

Nassif also mentioned that in order to further improve the healthcare system, there would be a need for more trained physicians.

“We focus so much on specialists more, what we need are more trained primary care physicians,” Nassif said.

As the discussion came to a close, panelists advised community members to educate themselves on illnesses so that they would not be caught off guard and also be advocates for their health.

“Take care of yourself. The time to act is now,” Solomon said.

Saffie Kamara is recent graduate from George Mason University. She is the Vice President of a women empowerment organization called My Natural GMU and works for Districtly Speaking as a town hall assistant.

Contact Saffie:  info@districtlyspeaking.com  / Follow Saffie @JuscallmeSaff

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