New data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in February reveals Virginia recorded 22,384 “excess deaths” since the start of the pandemic, a 15 percent increase in the mortality rate. Across the country, more than 1 million excess deaths were documented.
The majority of deaths are attributable to the COVID-19 virus; however, the CDC data highlights that chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension also played a role in the spike in unexpected deaths. For example, since the start of the pandemic, nearly 5,400 excess deaths related to circulatory disease and 1,103 excess deaths connected to diabetes were recorded in Virginia.
The increase in deaths from people experiencing chronic conditions points to the dangerous consequences of missed preventative care, according to leaders at the Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. The group represents more than 60 clinics that provide care to uninsured and underinsured Virginians.
“If you’ve skipped appointments, it’s important you get back to the doctor for preventative care and screenings,” said Rufus C. Phillips VAFCC CEO. “Preventative care saves lives by identifying and treating illness and disease early. The caring and dedicated teams at Virginia’s free and charitable clinics help vulnerable Virginians avoid future health crises through primary care services, education about healthy lifestyle choices, and connecting patients to other safety net resources.”
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2021 showed that 41 percent of patients skipped care during the early part of the pandemic.
Virginia’s free clinics provide comprehensive care for vulnerable individuals at low or no cost. In addition to COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots, many clinics offer preventative tests and cardiovascular screenings, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
Clinics are an important resource for people within the ALICE population, an acronym that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed. ALICE individuals earn above the federal poverty level, but often cannot afford basic household necessities like childcare or healthcare.
“Free clinics offer individuals living under the ALICE threshold comprehensive care from compassionate and highly- trained doctors, staff and volunteers,” added Phillips.
To find a clinic near you, visit www.freeclinicscare.org.