Only a few months after undergoing a double mastectomy, Christine Brooks moved to New Castle from upstate New York to open a quilt shop. Skilled with a needle and thread, Brooks deftly stitches together fabric to create works of art. But when she was turned down for medical insurance due to her history of breast cancer, she was desperate for help to piece together health care resources.
“I was overwhelmed with anxiety and depression,” she recalls. “It took all my strength to line up crackers on the kitchen counter and talk myself into eating them so I could keep going.”
Brooks ultimately went to a doctor’s office near her home, where she was encouraged to contact the Health Coach Program at Christiana Care.
Carlette Dickerson, a health coach, arranged for Brooks to meet a therapist who helped her learn ways to cope with stress. Her family practitioner helped Brooks to find generic drugs for her depression she could purchase at an affordable discount.
“Christiana Care gave me back my life,” Brooks says. “Because my health coach connected me with the right people, I’m back in my studio, doing wonderful work.”
As hard economic times persist, more people are turning to Christiana Care health coaches for help. In 2009, 275 new patients entered the program. In the first nine months of 2010, more than 500 new patients received assistance as part of Christiana Care’s commitment to care for our neighbors regardless of their ability to pay.
In addition to Christiana Care, health coaches are funded by grants and the Community Health Access Program (CHAP), which is administered by the Delaware Health Care Commission. AstraZeneca funds a part-time health coach who works in the Emergency Department at Wilmington Hospital.
“Health coaches connect patients to primary care physicians for care,” says Kathy Cannatelli, MS, manager of Christiana Care’s Center for Community Health. “They also interview each patient to learn what the patient needs to work on, such as finding coverage for other family members.”
Health coaches help patients who lack money or insurance to navigate the system so they don’t put off care. The goal is to educate patients to advocate for themselves.