What Our Community Needs Most: Accessible Healthcare in Peoria

by Aasiyah Adnan

In tumultuous times such as these, the spread of COVID-19 has pushed the American healthcare system to its limits. As hospitals struggle to get the protective supplies they need for their staff and patients, the cost of care rises steeply. The American Hospital Association finds that treatment of COVID-19 could be well over $88,000 for those who need ventilators. This current pandemic has reminded the public of the presence of health inequity and the unbearable burden of healthcare costs, and this is starkly apparent in Peoria, Il. 

Peoria is home to four large hospitals along with their respective care centers: OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, UnityPoint Health, Methodist Medical Center, and Proctor Hospital. These hospitals provide care to the larger Peoria area, surrounding suburbs, and rural areas. However, one look at downtown Peoria and the stark juxtaposition between itshospital facilities and its residents is obvious. According to the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate in Peoria is 16.6%. NPR Illinois’s “Impoverished in Illinois” finds that steady employment is difficult to find and thus many traditional jobs for teenagers are going to full-time workers. This is compounded with the fact that 24/7 Wall St. listed Peoria as the seventh worst city for Black Americans to live. The average poverty rate may be 16.6%, but USA Today found that compared to a poverty rate of 9.3% amongst the white population, 34.5% of Black Peorians live in poverty. All of this has laid bare an inequity between a large population of Peoria and its healthcare system. They areunderinsured or uninsured and unable to utilize the facilities present. 

The problem is vast and complicated. Almost 40% of Peorians do not go for annual routine checkups and 12.5% do not visit a doctor because of cost, according to HOI United Way’s 2017 assessment. However, solutions do exist to help combat this large divide. One solution is streamlined and transparent resources. Companies like GoodRx provide coupons for reduced cost prescription drugs, and many pharmacies also have $4 and $10 drug lists. All four hospitals also offer financial assistance services, but they can be difficult to navigate. Expanding awareness and creating better and easier accessibility to these cost-reducing resources will ease the burden on all individuals, even those with proper insurance. Another solution is to take advantage of technology. COVID-19 has shown that telemedicine is possible as many individuals communicate virtually with doctors and physicians for appointments and checkups. The reduced cost of online resources and their widespread availability allows for cheaper, more accessible options for patients. While the system is still young in Peoria, its implementation has begun, and support in its development and usage will help the program grow. 

In the meantime, clinics such as Heartland Health Services and Córdoba Clinic work to provide free and reduced primary and specialty care for Peoria residents. These clinics are geared toward the underinsured and uninsured, and they work to provide excellent care at low or no cost. They can only serve the community if they are supported through spreading awareness about their services and, if possible, donating. While the problem of healthcare in Peoria is glaring, supporting solutions that exist and pushing for the implementation of accessible services can help to better the health of the community.

About Aasiyah Adnan

Aasiyah Adnan is a senior at Dunlap High School. She is dedicated to community involvement on multiple levels. At school, she is academically competitive in her classes, a cross country/track captain, varsity runner (IHSA State qualifier in 2018 and 2019), Madrigals performer, speech captain and varsity performer (IHSA State qualifier in 2020), Scholastic Bowl varsity player, and Best Buddies officer. Aasiyah is also the Dunlap Student Body President and a part of Twelve Eagles, a student group focused on bridging the gap between the student body and administration. She focuses on ensuring that the student voice is heard and has spoken out at school board meetings about student mental health. She is currently in the process of starting the Muslim Student Association at Dunlap, and she hosted the first Global World Hijab Day in recent memory last school year. In the community, Aasiyah is active in her local mosque and volunteers at the Sunday School. She has been a Girl Scout for twelve years and is currently working on her Gold Award project on Muslim representation and resources at Dunlap. Since January 2019, Aasiyah also volunteers weekly at Córdoba Health Care, a free specialty clinic in Peoria that provides care to the uninsured.