FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|| September 4, 2012
Chapple Langemack, Adult Programming Coordinator
Kitsap Regional Library
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
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.