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Increasing the Civic Engagement of Third Age Health Professionals

Resource type: News

American Health Initiatives |

Taking Action From its inception AHI has worked to build a sustainable platform for public dialogue about a quality system in which every American is assured equitable and affordable access to basic health care. To do that we designed and successfully tested two central platform components: guided regional thought leader forums and facilitated internet public dialogue. We believe the resultant AHI platform, HealthCare CrossRoads, would facilitate meaningful and constructive dialogue if connected to a serious national determination for change. But the necessary environment for such a public dialogue does not presently exist. The two major purchasers of health care in our “system”, government and the corporate community, where we might have hoped to find the impetus for change, are mired in self protective “incrementalism”. Added to this reality the group most seriously affected by our growing national crisis, the uninsured has no public voice. With no external consideration for change likely in the near future, AHI sought to identify potential change energy within civil society and the uninsured community itself. We found it in a rapidly developing Free Clinic movement dedicated exclusively to the health care needs of the nations uninsured. It was also clear that by assisting the Free Clinic movement in its vital community work AHI could facilitate a broad and deep voice among the uninsured in an eventual national policy dialogue. Through its TAP-IN Program AHI will connect the needs of the Free Clinics and the uninsured to the interests of a major national resource of retired health professionals. That group represents an extraordinary pool of tested and proven intellectual capital. By facilitating their collaborative civic engagement with the Free Clinic movement we would expect to realize the creation of significant new social capital on behalf of the community and its uninsured citizens. Announcing TAP-IN – Third Age Professionals Initiative NATIONWIDE PROGRAM TO HELP MEET THE NEEDS OF THE UNINSURED WILL BE LAUNCHED IN VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA. RETIRED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS TO BE KEY RESOURCE October 17, 2005: The American Health Initiative, Ltd. (AHI) has announced the initiation of TAP-IN, a program to meet critical needs of Free Clinics through the volunteer engagement of retired health professionals to care for the uninsured. Intended to eventually be a national program, TAP-IN will be introduced in Virginia and North Carolina this year in partnership with the Free Clinic Associations of the respective states. Program initiation is being supported by a major, two year grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies. TAP-IN is designed to boost Free Clinic volunteerism among six groups of retired healthcare professionals: physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, and social workers. The program will utilize focused marketing and Web based communications and dialogue to link retired health care professionals with Free Clinics throughout VA and NC. It will be field tested and implemented initially with retired physicians in the nearly 100 Free Clinics in Virginia and North Carolina. The program will then be expanded to include other retired health professionals and Free Clinics in other states. The program is designed to assist Free Clinics nationally in recruiting volunteers to help serve the more than 45 million Americans under age 65 who are currently without health insurance. At present these uninsured turn to a complex safety net that includes physician offices, hospital emergency rooms, Federally Qualified Community Health Centers, and Free Clinics. Some 1700 Free Clinics operating in 47 states are an increasingly important part of that safety net, accounting for more than 8.9 million patient visits annually. Free Clinics, staffed primarily by actively practicing and retired volunteers, now turn away thousands of patients each week due to a lack of volunteers. This program will focus on tapping into the hundreds of thousands of retired healthcare professionals to help Free Clinics meet their growing need for volunteers. Current estimates of retired health professionals in the United States include 164,000 physicians, 510,000 nurses, 32,000 dentists, 23,000 mental health providers, and 63,000 social workers. Many are interested in using their clinical skills to assist the uninsured, but until now there has been no organized program to link them to opportunities for such service. TAP-IN will provide that linkage and in so doing allow Free clinics to meet the growing demand for services. North Carolina and Virginia were chosen as sites to launch TAP-IN because they lead the nation in total number of Free Clinics, both states have well organized State Free Clinic Associations that represent a majority of the Free Clinics in the area, have very low cost retiree medical malpractice insurance arrangements, and offer a strong pool of potential volunteers. Both the North Carolina and Virginia Associations of Free Clinics have agreed to partner with TAP-IN in developing and refining the program. According to John Mills, Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics, over 8000 volunteers provided free care valued at over $ 50 million to over 70,000 patients in over 60 Free Clinics statewide in 2004. Virginia, with 61 Free Clinic sites, provided care to nearly 64,000 low income uninsured persons last year according to Mark Cruise, Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Free Clinics. Nearly 10,000 Virginians volunteered their services in Virginia’s Free Clinics in 2004. The Atlantic Philanthropies are a group of Bermuda-based charitable foundations whose grant investments are focused internationally in four programme fields: Ageing, Disadvantaged Children and Youth, Population Health and Reconciliation and Human Rights. © 2005. American Health Initiative, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Related Resources


Aging, Health

Global Impact:

United States


free clinics, health care, retirement, senior citizens, TAP-IN