The Rockbridge Area Health Center (RAHC) received a $100,000 Aflac Community CareGrant award on Wednesday, June 29 at a check presentation event held at Lexington’s Kids Playce park as part of Aflac’s commitment to improving medical outcomes for individuals in communities throughout the country. The funds will help RAHC advance medical outcomes locally through the funding of a school-based culture of wellness program, as well as a multidisciplinary program to increase pre and postnatal care for those with limited resources.
“The ability of the Rockbridge Area Health Center to respond to the community health care needs is due in part to the special relationships we develop with like-minded people and with organizations such as Aflac,” said Suzanne Sheridan, RAHC CEO. “As we look forward, RAHC is committed to creating a culture of wellness in our community and we believe that success starts with our youth and working with families to support healthy choices.”
Following the check presentation by Teresa White, President of Aflac U.S., Aflac and Lexington officials unveiled the Aflac park bench, donated to Kids Playce park as a place for rest and reflection with hopes that residents who may be affected by health and financial challenges can find peace and comfort.
Earlier this year, Aflac launched Close the Gap, a new initiative aiming to educate, support, and advocate around the critical and rising issue of medical debt. The Aflac Care Index, a nationwide study examining Americans’ awareness of the exposure to debt resulting from medical bills not covered by insurance, informed the initiative. The Index identified 11 U.S. states that over-index for vulnerability to medical debt due to lack of savings. Virginia was among the 11 states identified as having the most medical debt exposure. Within Virginia, the Lexington-Rockbridge area was one of the regions categorized as medically underserved.
“Lexington and its surrounding area is a prime example of a community in this gap, “said Teresa White. “It’s a special place, from its scenic landscapes and many outdoor activities to its institutions of higher learning, but a large number of its residents suffer from financial and health distress, and many are considered medically underserved, with 38% of the residents considered low-income and many who lack access to consistent, quality, and affordable care.”
According to Aflac, the Rockbridge Area Health Center was selected for the award because of its steadfast mission of supporting the health and well-being of the community by offering affordable access to health care to anyone in need. The park bench is a physical manifestation of the commitments Aflac has made to the Close the Gap initiative and worked closely with the health center to understand the local community in choosing a widely accessible and natural space for the bench for congregating, recreation, or reflection.
“At Aflac, we are committed to being there for Americans in their time of need, and we know the Rockbridge Area Health Center will use the CareGrant award to create long-term health and wealth impacts for the residents of the Lexington-Rockbridge area,” White added.