By Daniel Thomas, Volunteer
When I started volunteering with Georgia Watch in February 2017 helping with distribution of the Georgia Consumer Guide for Medical Bills and Debt, I could not have imagined the effect the experience would have on my personal and professional life. Through attending Georgia Watch’s workshops and events to help distribute the guide, I gained a new perspective on the problems plaguing the healthcare system. As a new healthcare professional working in operations and strategy at a large hospital, I believed that inefficiency of the healthcare delivery system was the primary cause of poor outcomes and population health. I was naïve about the role social determinants of health played in health outcomes. Volunteering with Georgia Watch helped me begin to understand the role of social determinants in improving health and health equity. The experience has completely transformed my own view on healthcare, and helped clarify what I want to accomplish moving forward with Georgia Watch and in my own career.
Georgia Watch’s continued work on access to quality, affordable healthcare, fair utility rates, renewable energy options, safeguarding personal finances, and access to civil justice educates and protects Georgians in many areas that have a direct impact on their health. Georgia is consistently ranked in the bottom half of the country in overall health, and one of the state’s primary challenges is the high uninsured and underinsured population in the state. Since policies like expanding Medicaid (which has been shown to decrease uninsured rates and positively affect various economic measures) and other consumer protection policies may be difficult to pass in the short-term, community-based groups like Georgia Watch pick up the slack to protect vulnerable communities. For example, Georgia Watch’s Guide for the Uninsured and the Georgia Consumer Guide for Medical Bills and Debt provide resources to help individuals manage healthcare costs and find affordable care. These free resources and a myriad of others can be found on the website.
I’m looking forward to working with Georgia Watch to find more ways to effectively educate and engage Georgians in 2018, and take a more active role in my career to trumpet social disparities in health and healthcare. To those who have thought about getting involved in their community, I strongly urge you to do so. Working up close on issues I deeply care about has reshaped my values and what I want to accomplish in the future, and I am looking forward to continued growth and awareness in the coming year working with Georgia Watch.