The Health of Smithville as it Ages by Michael R. Brown, DO
Recognizing that local problems need local solutions, the Smithville CIA seeks to mobilizing the entire community— youth, parents, teachers, police, reporters, extra-curricular instructors, health care providers, faith communities, business professionals, civic leaders, government representatives, and other Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug providers. We know that strategically aligning not only the “movers and shakers,” but also the “grassroots” folks who have strong links within neighborhoods and informal institutions reduce substance abuse among youth and, over time, among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse.
Local physician, Dr. Michael Brown, helps us see how a prescription for healthy, drug-free youth is the way forward for a thriving attractive community for others to live in.
When I moved my family with several young kids into our home in the country almost ten years ago I was very excited because we found out we could receive 2-3 mbps internet speeds through a local wireless company. At the time that was considered high speed internet and we knew we would be well taken care of. Ten years later our kids have become teenagers and we still can only get 2-3 mbps internet speed, except now it has become highly unreliable and goes down every night when it gets congested from all the other households needing to use it.
When I think about the healthcare in the Smithville area I see a very similar picture to my family’s internet crisis. Ten years ago we had a couple of medical clinics and even a working emergency department we could utilize. Today we still have two family medicine clinics with even less physicians than before and no longer have a working emergency department. During that time our town has grown older and much larger. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians a family medicine physician averages less than 2,000 patients they can adequately service (some argue its closer to 1,500 active patients). This means our two to three physicians in town can service less than a quarter of our population of 12,000 and that does not include all the surrounding areas we help as well. Many of you reading this can relate as you take your family members and yourselves outside of our city limits for your health care needs.
My residency was in community and family medicine, not just treating patients but also treating a community. It is that philosophy that we need to continue to build and use to attract more health professionals into the area. That is why last year with North Kansas City Hospital’s help we opened up the Meritas Smithville clinic location. Since that time we have been working hard to be involved in the local needs of the community, including bringing local COVID testing within the city limits early in the pandemic. Currently we are fighting to also bring COVID vaccines to our clinic and our local pharmacies have been successful in doing so.
What value does primary care have to the community? Its value is in providing its citizens a localized response to your own health care needs. Just like with COVID. We are there for your young children after they are born so you don’t have to drive far to get their immunizations, we squeeze in that last minute forgotten sports physical and are there for your elderly family members you don’t want traveling too far away. We are those stitches that need to be placed without having to wait for hours in a busy emergency department. We also provide you virtual/telemedicine care without even having to leave your home, but provided by a physician who lives and works in your community.
Local primary care is your connection to medical clinics outside of the city. We are the answer to what hospitals are best for your care? What specialists should your loved one with cancer use? After you get that care, we are the home for your medical records and following up on treatment plans. All of this allows our citizens to continue enjoying their lives within the city of Smithville instead of needing to seek advice from someone who is less familiar with our area. My patients will tell you that not only do I prescribe exercise as a medicine, but I will pull up on google maps for them the closest running trails and parks in our area, the ones I also run on every morning. Need an over-the-counter remedy, physical therapist, or podiatrist? I’m going to send you to one of our great local resources for those.
Between the few medical providers we have in town, we are not going to be able to do this alone. Especially as the town continues to grow. We need to continue to promote our great community lifestyle and values to attract more physicians to the area. Encouraging community members to seek local care also helps encourage the surrounding healthcare systems to continue putting resources into the community. As Smithville grows, so too must its healthcare availability. I’m committed to help with this process and I hope you are as well.