June 21, 2021

Expanding Care to Enhance Outcomes

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Dr. Robert Jackson is on a mission to improve healthcare for Louisiana, ensuring the most vulnerable in his community have access to the medical care they need.  

When Dr. Jackson, Medical Director and Founder of MLK Health Center & Pharmacy, reflects back on his career, he often thinks about the moment during his residency that started it all. That one defining moment has changed the face of healthcare in northern Louisiana, as well as the lives of so many in the community.

While completing his residency in 1985, Dr. Jackson recognized that many uninsured patients were suffering from debilitating complications from uncontrolled preventable diseases. As a way to meet the needs of those in his community, he started a Saturday morning clinic at the Christian Service’s Hospitality House with the help of the late Sister Margaret McCaffrey.

“I’m not sure what I imagined,” says Dr. Jackson. “In fact, I don’t think I had any sort of vision, other than providing care for those most in need.”

What began in a small, cinderblock building on Sprague Street in the Ledbetter Heights Community of Shreveport, has grown tremendously over the years in order to meet the growing healthcare needs of the uninsured. Today, the center continues to serve patients who have no resources to obtain quality healthcare and pharmacy services, providing over $16 million in services to over 1,700 patients each year.

Even from the beginning, the health center has always had a patient-centered approach, one that creates a culture that is more than the traditional health clinic. By providing an opportunity for patients to share and connect with others in similar situations, the clinic works to boost the humanity in medicine and enhance the overall experience of care.

“Our clinic shows what we, as a community, can do together to improve life in our area. And that’s also an important part of improving our own lives,” says Dr. Jackson.

Delivery of medical care — acute moments when healthcare is sought out by an individual due to an illness —is believed to be only a small element of a state’s health, dwarfed by many more external factors. Community or behavioral elements of healthcare, such as diet and exercise, are factors that impact our state’s healthcare system, but tend to reside outside of the medical community’s direct control. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, 35.9% of the state’s population is obese. In direct correlation, Louisiana has higher rates of heart-related diseases and various cancers based on recent data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Louisiana has a love for food,” says Dr. Jackson. “It is in our culture, almost an innate part of our being. And that food plays a part in many of our crippling health concerns.”

These health concerns are only amplified by the fact that Louisiana has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country. Roughly 15% of all Louisiana residents, including over 45,000 residents in the northwest part of the state, have no Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance, and do not qualify for free medical care programs. Further, even with coverage, residents struggle to find access to the care they need.

Currently, Louisiana is experiencing changes to its healthcare and payment systems as the state works to expand Medicaid, provide new coverage options through the federal health insurance marketplace, and streamline application and enrollment processes for coverage programs. In the meantime, Dr. Jackson and his team continue to willingly serve the community, providing critical care and pharmaceutical needs.

“The loyalty I feel to Louisiana and my community is not something I can fully describe. It’s here. This is my hometown. And I feel obligated to do what I can to make this place better for all of us, and for those to come later,” he shares.

VISIT DR. JACKSON'S FEATURE PAGE

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