Laura Neilson: Christian faith motivates a new model of health care for the poor | 7/23/2019 | Staff
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Historically, many service institutions -- hospitals, health clinics, universities -- were launched by faith communities and designed to carry out missions of mercy and bless their neighbors. But now, in the hyper-bureaucratized West, it can seem as if those founding days are over.

Dr. Laura Neilson demonstrates otherwise.

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Ten years ago, she and her husband, Chris, were serving as church planters with the Salvation Army in Oldham, a town in Greater Manchester, one of the poorest places in the U.K.

Neilson, then a medical student, was frustrated at the poor health care her neighbors and fellow church members were receiving.

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She organized a community effort to get a new health clinic approved by the National Health Service for the local area. Although the U.K. has universal free health care, there are gaps in the levels of access and service -- particularly for primary care -- between the rich and the poor.

When the NHS plans called for the clinic to be built by a for-profit company without interest in improving the neighborhood, she objected.

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“Someone is going to make money from providing bad service to the poor?” she said.

The NHS manager dismissed her, saying, “Why don’t you do something about it?”

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So she did. Neilson -- then 25, with a new baby -- went home, Googled “how to set up a company” and went on to found the nonprofit Hope Citadel Healthcare in 2010.

The general practice, or GP, is based on “focused care,” the philosophy of treating the whole person and addressing underlying issues that might affect the person’s health, such as poverty or homelessness.

Hope - Citadel - Food - Pantries - Choirs

Hope Citadel offers food pantries, choirs, and groups for mothers and toddlers, along with counseling services, extended doctors’ appointments, and in-house referrals.

The company has grown to include nine health centers in Greater Manchester, employing 120 people and seeing 33,000 walk-in patients per year.


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