Images of Kitsap County
Public Communications (MS-11)
614 Division Street, Port Orchard, WA
Phone: 360.337.4598
Date: September 4, 2012

Contact: Chapple Langemack, Adult Programming Coordinator
Kitsap Regional Library
360.405.9111 or

No: 2012-85

One Book, One Community Program
Kitsap Regional Library program coincides with low-income health care access program

(Port Orchard) - The timing of Kitsap Regional Library’s (KRL) One Book, One Community program could hardly be better.

Since 2008, the library and community members have selected one book that every resident of Kitsap County should read and this year they chose the non-fiction account, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot. The book is a story of both medical innovation and discrimination. It captures the anachronistic medical techniques of 1951—like suturing bars of radium to a tumor as treatment—and the barriers that Henrietta Lacks’s descendents continue to face in our medical system.

The One Book program happens to coincide with the launch of a pilot program here in Kitsap meant to provide healthcare access to low-income residents of Kitsap County. Project Access Northwest, as the program is called, is a case management program that links up specialist providers with uninsured patients, helping to ensure that families like Henrietta’s have access to the best care possible.

Project Access NW works with general practitioners to connect qualified patients with needed specialist services. Since Project Access NW makes sure the necessary labs, scans and other diagnostics are completed before the specialist sees the patient the appointments are streamlined for doctors. The patients are also more likely to show up and follow their treatment regimen since Project Access NW ameliorates many of the barriers patients face: large co-pays, language barriers and a lack of transportation being a few of the most common.

“Healthcare is a theme everywhere right now,” notes County Commissioner Robert Gelder, “clearly access is on people’s minds. Henrietta’s story shows how long access to treatment has been a problem and really humanizes the problem.”  Commissioner Gelder is the chair of the Access workgroup for Kitsap County Health Priorities (KCHP). KCHP has been gathering data and input from the community to categorize the problems Kitsap residents face. A lack of access to medical services is a big problem in Kitsap County. There are over 20,000 uninsured adults in Kitsap County and about 35,000 adults who are underinsured.

The majority of doctors already provide some free care to patients that need it, but without case management specialist visits frustrate both doctors and patients. One of the most important aspects of the Project Access NW model is equity. No one provider can open their doors to every uninsured patient, since doing so welcomes a sizeable caseload. Doctors who choose to be involved in Project Access NW select their own level of participation per month. In this way, Project Access allows participation without inundating doctors with patients.

Access is only one part of Henrietta’s story. Henrietta passed away in 1951, but her cells are still alive today, having been vital to developing the polio vaccine and uncovering the secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects. “The story is truly multi-dimensional,” observed Commissioner Gelder, “it goes into medical history while telling the story of a remarkable family. I hope Kitsap’s residents find the time to read about it, especially since it applies so readily to America today.”

Skloot’s book takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

The lives of Henrietta and her family are remarkable and the issues her descendants face are issues that thousands of locals continue to face. The Project Access pilot is one step towards addressing these problems.

Additional resources:


Kitsap 1
(360) 337-5777

Last Updated: 
May 27, 2014