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Community Matters, Health & Wellness 

The Health Commission

In its first report to the community, a new Springfield-Greene County nonprofit called The Health Commission outlined numerous challenges facing medically underserved residents, by the health care systems and medical providers.

Among them: a lack of dental care for underinsured and uninsured adults, creating a strain on hospital emergency rooms; and a growing shortage of primary care providers, discouraging patients from seeking early, preventive care.

The Health Commission was developed in July 2009 to help build community partnerships that promote affordable, quality health care for the medically underserved residents of southwest Missouri. It is a Missouri nonprofit corporation and a 501(c)(3) public charity.

It was patterned after a successful St. Louis health commission, and is unique for the Ozarks in that it brings to the same table the CEOs and top managers of health care systems, private and public health officials, social service agency leaders, civic leaders and community members.

With its first report, the result of a 10-month community health assessment, the commission identified critical health issues and is making that information available to the public, lawmakers, policymakers and others who can influence policy affecting the health of the region.

Going forward, The Health Commission's goal is to encourage collaborative efforts of business, community, health care and government leaders to address and improve the community's health.

Dr. Dan Sontheimer, who chaired the community health assessment and resulting report, says the commission plans this fall to organize priorities and encourage collaborations to address them.

The report was compiled by the commission's Access to Care Committee, which for 10 months interviewed patients, health care providers and others about access-to-care issues.

Among the findings:

  • General health and disease-prevention practices among Greene County citizens are slowly decreasing.
  • Patients fail to seek primary care because of lack of transportation, operating hours of clinics, limited access to safety-net clinics, and limited willingness of clinics to accept patients with no insurance or with MO HealthNet (Missouri's version of Medicaid).
  • Of emergency room patients without insurance in 2009, 75 percent were 20 to 49 years old. Of those visits, the majority were for dental problems.
  • Most people using safety-net clinics in Greene County use them for problems related to chronic illness.

Review the report (pdf) in full with all the data references.


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