Council of Community Clinics works toward better health through prevention

This blue phone offers a doctor access to translators who speak a variety of languages, but culturally sensitive care goes beyond just translation.

The Council of Community Clinics is helping City Heights-based clinics strengthen preventive care – a major focus of the federal health-care reform law – so patients can avoid re-admissions or emergency room visits.

Under one model of preventive care, a team of people would partner with clinic patients to provide ongoing comprehensive care. Patients may be assigned a care coordinator who reaches out to ensure they are getting their lab tests, medications, and other needs met, Steve O’Kane, Council of Community Clinics’ Chief Executive, said.

The idea is to create a patient-centered medical home so the government-subsidized Medi-Cal system will realize greater efficiency – and save money – by treating symptoms before they become severe. “That provides better overall care and lessens emergency room admissions,” O’Kane said.

The Council’s partners in these pilot efforts include Planned Parenthood, San Diego Family Care, La Maestra Community Health Centers, University of California San Diego Medical Center and Scripps Mercy Hospital.

The Council also is working to make health care accessible to diverse, low-income communities. It has been participating in Mid-City Community Advocacy Network’s Access to Health Care Momentum Team for a year and a half, addressing access problems and providing trainings.

One of the Council’s strategies is to support culturally-sensitive care. Research has shown that it’s critical for health care providers to take into account a patient’s heritage, because it often plays a big role in shaping attitudes and beliefs about illnesses and recovery.

O’Kane cites La Maestra as a role model for offering culturally-sensitive care to diverse populations. Refugees who come to La Maestra for treatment often see someone who shares their cultural and linguistic background, he noted.

“At La Maestra, there are Somali speakers, Spanish speakers, speakers of different Asian dialects,” he said. “You walk in and you are greeted by someone of your culture.”

The Council of Community Clinics assists its 16-member clinics in providing care to one in six San Diegans. Community clinics serve as the region’s safety net for primary care services for the low-income, uninsured and underinsured.

For more information about the Council,

Adam Ward is the Mid-City CAN staff writer and a former San Diego Union-Tribune editor. Adam has lived in San Diego for nearly a decade and is the father of a young son. Contact him at or (619) 283-9624 ext. 210.