Story Power

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Mosquito bites. They’re not usually considered a serious medical issue, but when a toddler named Dee walked in to a clinic in Austin covered with them, it ended up being a sign of much more.

We recently produced a video about Dee called Dee’s Story – The Dramatic Impact of Addressing Root Causes. You can watch it here.

Dee’s story begins in a clinic room at People’s Community Clinic in Austin. Doctors and nurses not only treated her repeat mosquito bites with creams and medicine, but they took the effort to ask a simple question – why does she keep getting them?

Turns out, Dee’s family said mosquitos were getting in their apartment because they had to open the windows due to a broken air conditioner. The windows didn’t have screens and their landlord wouldn’t install them. That’s when the clinic’s collaboration with Texas Legal Services came to help.

The collaboration is called the Austin Medical-Legal Partnership. It’s a group that stations lawyers inside PCC to work with patients’ legal issues like housing and employment problems that end up having a dramatic effect on their health.

After demand letters from partnership attorneys, the landlord finally fixed the air conditioner. He eventually allowed Dee’s family to break the apartment lease and find a healthier place to live.

“No amount of creams or steroids were going to remedy the health issues and her treatment wasn’t going to be effective until we took care of the root cause,” said attorney Keegan Warren-Clem, legal champion for the partnership.

Dee’s story is a clear example of how addressing root causes of medical problems – outside of a clinic — can improve the health of an entire family.

But just telling her story is equally important. Dee’s story is our story.

As a new $1.2 billion foundation, we have to get wrapped up in grant guidelines, strategic plans, and everything else needed to build a growing effort to bring long-lasting change to community health. But at the center of it all are stories like Dee’s. Behind every story is a real person, a real family.

It’s a 45-year-old man who is schizophrenic and doesn’t know how to get help. It’s a senior who can’t drive to a health clinic.  It’s a third-grader who still struggles to read. It’s a family of six who doesn’t have health insurance.

Their stories of need are the reason the Episcopal Health Foundation was created.

We see every grant, program, research project and church endeavor as chapters in our story. Each chapter is different. And not every chapter will tell a story of success.  

But there is power in just telling the story

If you don’t tell the story of those in need, no one knows to help. Don’t tell the stories of success, and no one knows to replicate the effort.  If you don’t tell about what didn’t work, mistakes are easily repeated.

We tell Dee’s story because Dee matters. Her family matters. The great effort by People’s Community Clinic, Texas Legal Services, and the Austin Medical-Legal Partnership should be shared because it works in amazing ways.

The story of the Episcopal Health Foundation is just beginning. The characters are real. They live across 57 Texas counties and they need help.  Partners are lining up to tell us how investment in their work will help bring new improvements to community health. The chapters are beginning to be written.

We may not know how EHF’s story will end, but we know we’ll do our best to make it a tale of life-changing, long-lasting and impactful work for the health and well-being for all inside communities.

And we’ll happily tell the story every step of the way.