LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS -- Before Hurricane Katrina, few people in the New Orleans area used community based health clinics. Now, 20 percent of people have a medical home there.

But doctors and city leaders have created a new way of thinking about keeping you physically and emotionally well.

With the cutting of a gold ribbon and a mention of the cuisine that was enjoyed for years behind its walls, the old Ruth's Chris Steak House on Broad Street, became a new kind of health clinic.

'Do you want your health care rare, medium, or well done?' joked Dr. Benjamin Sachs, the senior vice president and dean of the Tulane School of Medicine. 'And the second thing is, do you want your butter withheld or poured on copiously?'

The state-of-the-art Tulane Community Health Center is a public-private partnership, with a health delivery system that promises to be a new model for the city and U.S.

'What we have here today is what success really looks like, and the ingredients are here for all people to see. It's within our grasp. If we continue to replicate this over and over and over again, there's no doubt in my mind, that the city of New Orleans will always be a great city,' said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The idea was born in Katrina's flooded aftermath, when doctors had nothing more than an ice chest with tetanus vaccines in it at a makeshift clinic at Covenant House.

'We were trying to do something that was actually very old in a new time. We were working to take care of people in a way that relied on a good history, a good physical understanding where patients were coming from. What were the barriers to their health and wellness,' explained Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the city health commissioner.

This is more than a place for your regular check up. There's a pharmacy inside. There are mental health services. Social workers and case managers will help you deal with what stands in your way of wellness.

Do you need help with transportation or affordable medication? There will also be computer literacy classes and attorneys to help navigate social wellness, such as domestic abuse or a home being foreclosed.

Upstairs, a community room will soon be filled with people doing Zumba dance classes and yoga. There will also be diabetes education and nutrition classes to help and prevent long-term serious illness and future amputations.

A neighbor of the clinic. Tyrone Bailey, 52, used to wash dishes and was a line cook at Ruth's. He's watched the building renovation and is now excited about the center's holistic approach and community outreach.

'A healing center, that's cool. I need to stop smoking. I need some help with that anyway,' said Bailey.

Donations came from as far away as San Francisco, from the Brinton family, who was touched by the BP oil spill and wanted to help the citizens of the area.

In the last decade, the number of children with pre-diabetes rose from 9 percent to 23 percent in the U.S.

Those children will go on to have diabetes that causes heart, eye and kidney disease as well as strokes. That is why doctors want to stress wellness and prevention as part of the model of the medical home.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.wwltv.com/story/news/2014/09/03/14508640/