Dr. Jack Geiger: Curing the Patient Treating the Cause

by | Aug 24, 2015

Dr. Jack Geiger, co-founder of America’s Community Health Centers, reflects on the CHC’s ability to affect patient health through environmental changes.

“When they were created in the 1960’s, community health centers had the flexibility to address many of these community determinants. Even then fifty years ago they understood that they had to take a holistic approach to solving these dramatic health status issues.

If you’re poor, poverty poor, and you live in places like these, sickness can be a lifelong blanket – a kind of vicious circle described by the physician who said the sick get poorer and the poor get sicker.

In the beginning the flexibility of the Office of Economic Opportunity, the war on poverty permitted this kind of expansion, not just with health education expansion into the environmental causes that we’re making people sick in the first place.

It simply made no sense, particularly in Mississippi, to treat a child on the verge of death with infectious diarrhea, dehydration and malnutrition, all of them synergistic, hydrate that child, cure the infection and send him or her back to drink some more water from the drainage ditch.

It’s as if in nineteenth century London we had decided it was OK to treat people with cholera and send them back to have another drink from the Broad Street pump.

One of the things about community health centers is that we have a professional and patient partnership for taking the handle off the Broad Street pump.

In 1854 taking the handle off the Broad Street pump was not a popular decision. It reminds us however of not only how much we’ve learned about the management of infectious disease but the importance of being unconventional to solve problems.”


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