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All You Need is Love - and Preventive Health

By S. Mathur

"Care Ring is the heart of community health," says Executive Director Donald K. Jonas, Ph.D. The community health non-profit based in Charlotte, NC has a mission to provide health care access to those who are unable to afford treatment or insurance. Care Ring is also the center of a quiet revolution in healthcare: shifting the emphasis to preventive care, which is both more effective and less costly than treatment.

Jonas explains the significance of this shift: "Much of health care over the last few decades has been about dispelling disease. We have created a health care system that provides the latest technologies and advanced procedures to heal individuals once they become sick. But this model of care is very expensive - and unfortunately, is not readily accessible by those with limited resources or the ability to access the best care. Fortunately, there has been a movement of late to focus more of our energies further 'upstream,' so that we can help people establish and maintain healthy behaviors and thus prevent many of the illnesses that are so costly to reverse."

It's almost ridiculously simple, Jonas says. "Research suggests upwards of 75% of the reason for a person being healthy is based on preventative behaviors - exercising regularly, eating right, and finding ways to reduce stress." These simple steps can reduce healthcare costs for individuals and "... also help us establish a culture of prevention that introduces lifelong wellness for everyone, including those with limited resources."

Care Ring is well-placed to promote preventive health, having served the community through volunteer care from a network that includes more than half the physicians in the area, as well as a visiting nurse program for low-income expectant mothers that has improved outcomes for both mother and child. Partnerships with healthcare organizations like OrthoCarolina, Novant Health, and Carolinas Healthcare System enable Care Ring to promote changes in healthcare priorities, Jonas says, "We are small enough to be nimble to take on new endeavors - like introducing a walking program for clients in our Low-Cost Clinic in uptown Charlotte."

Among Care Ring's corporate partners, OrthoCarolina is listed as a the Corporate Champion, giving a percentage of the proceeds from the OrthoCarolina Classic 10K run to Care Ring. OrthoCarolina is also the presenting sponsor of the annual Hope for Community Health Luncheon and for the upcoming 60th Anniversary celebrations on November 14, 2015.

And yet what drives these efforts might be something very intangible, as Jonas suggests: "But what causes our nurses to decide to dedicate their lives to going into Charlotte's most fragile neighborhoods to care for these new moms, all at a salary much less than what they can earn walking into virtually any hospital or clinic in town? What drives our physician and dentist partners to offer up valuable clinic space to see those with so little - at no cost?" His answer is one the Beatles would have approved of: "Love, love, love."

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