Dr. Oz Connects Houston’s Uninsured Community with Free Health Care Service Providers

Tonja Ward | 9/30/2009, 5:58 p.m.
If you’ve been to one health fair you’ve been to them all. Glossy brochures. Cool give-a-ways. A variety of complimentary ...

If you’ve been to one health fair you’ve been to them all. Glossy brochures. Cool give-a-ways. A variety of complimentary health screenings. Free pressure readings. Instant blood glucose tests. Good information. And then you walk away with some disturbing diagnosis, only to find yourself asking "Ok, now what do I do?" While these fairs are well meaning events, the lack of follow-up care always seems to be the missing link. You arrive ready to take control of your health but, leave either unsatisfied or feeling worse because a potential problem was identified.

Well, this was not at all the case last Saturday! Close to 2,000 of Houston’s uninsured residents showed up at the Reliant Center to take Dr. Oz up on his offer for free check-ups, medical screenings and tests. This was certainly not your ordinary health fair. Dr. Oz partnered with the National Association of Free Clinics to host what may become known as the largest free clinic event in America! Houston's selection was not happenchance. On average, one out of three persons in Houston does not have coverage. Statewide, it’s an alarming one in four people across Texas without health coverage!

At first glance, the staggering numbers and short time period for the health fair could suggest chaos. But as Dr. Oz worked the entire 168,000 square foot Reliant Center room, with more than 120 exam partitioned rooms, there was a surreal feeling of calm, peace and hope. From the top down the volunteer staff was warm, welcoming, engaging and truly helpful. The staff included hundreds of medical professionals (pediatricians, oncologists, cardiologists, E.R. doctors, general

practitioners and nurses of various specialties), as well as families and even church groups from as far away as North Carolina.

The range of care provided on Saturday varied from the typical check up to acute issues requiring immediate attention. In one case, Dr. Oz worked directly with a woman with very high blood pressure, 200/110. Dr. Oz recalled "she was about to faint, couldn’t breathe because her heart couldn’t pump anymore." So he quickly ran some tests, put her in the on-site ICU, and was able to get her blood pressure down. After her breathing improved, personnel were on hand to transport her to a near-by hospital.

Natalie Flint and her son, both in need of medical attention, were able to be seen at the clinic on Saturday. “I was grateful that they actually had the program…It was very well organized and people were friendly and helpful and I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” she said.

“We are so excited that Dr. Oz partnered with us to bring the face of the uninsured to Houston,” said Nicole Lamoureux, Executive Director of the National Association of Free Clinics. “What we really are seeing is that 83% of the patients that come to free clinics…come from working households and we really wanted to show that the uninsured in America right now are your friends and your neighbors and the people you go to the grocery store with. They’re people who have recently lost their jobs who just a year ago thought the had a health insurance and a great job and now …they have no where else to turn,” Lamoureaux shares.