Ollie Idowu President of the Illinois Primary Healthcare Association on the Essential Need for Community Health Centers (Springfield, IL) – With various challenges coming upon the healthcare horizon, Ollie Idowu is looking to focus on two key areas that he believes are essential. First, he seeks to strengthen equity, diversity and representation among the healthcare workforce along with prioritizing legislation that would make prescription drugs more affordable for everyone.
“When we talk about equity, diversity and inclusion, the thing we say and the things our members will say is that it has to be intention,” said Idowu, president and CEO of Illinois Primary Health Care Association. “The value in equity is investing in people and investing in communities. That is what our community centers do which is look to provide the best care we can.”
53 Community Health Centers
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The organization represents 53 community health centers and a network of 400 sites that provide high quality and cost effective services. Idowu has led growth at various organizations from two Fortune 500 managed care companies to a start-up data-analytics business. Before becoming president, he served as the director of state governmental affairs at IPHCA. The association’s mission continues to be improving the health and well-being of communities across the state.
“The pandemic put a spotlight on what health centers have always done. Health centers have been around for a long time providing quality care at a very cost effective rate. My mom gets her care from a health center,” said Idowu. “We take all comers regardless of your ability to pay.”
Over the past two years with the combination of nationwide shutdowns and several variants because of the pandemic, it has shifted the way people seek medical attention. Telehealth, which allows people to get health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies, became more popular than ever. It allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions.
“The biggest thing in healthcare is how we respond. If you asked me what has changed it is our ability to adapt,” said Idowu. “We have to pay homage to our front care workers and the work they had to do to keep us whole, look out for us and put themselves at risk.”
Passion for Healthcare
Idowu’s passion for health care intersects with the belief that community centers can serve communities so that every person has access to cutting-edge compassionate care. He applauded Illinois Governor J. B. Pritkizer and his Administration for endeavoring to prioritize equity, strengthen investment in the safety net, and fortify the healthcare workforce while stabilizing our state fiscally.
“We like the fact that he had a multi-prong approach to restoring growth in Illinois’ healthcare workforce. Evey spectrum of healthcare is experiencing these workforce shortages. We have to strive for equity, representation and inclusion,” said Idowu, who was Chicago born and grew up in Lagos, Nigeria.
Additionally, he champions the idea that community health centers must be equipped to continue caring for their communities. He invited policymakers to join them in prioritizing protections for the 340B prescription drug discount program. The 340B program has recently come under threat at the state and federal level. HB4595/SB3729 aims to safeguard this vital program which is essential to health centers’ ability to continue to provide affordable medication and access to high-quality, comprehensive care.
Leading the Way
Idowu is proud to be in a state that is leading the way nationwide when it comes to access for healthcare for all. Illinois became the first state in the country to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to a full year – an important step toward eliminating maternal mortality disparities. This year there were inatiives that expanded health coverage to low-income immigrants ages 55-64, building on a pioneering program which established coverage for undocumented seniors ages 65 and up.
“We are always looking for opportunities to highlight the good work health centers do. Any given year almost 1.5 million people in Illinois get served from a health center. The work that we do can not be left unspoken,” he added.
Ollie Idowu President of the Illinois Primary Healthcare Association on the Essential Need for Community Health Centers