Southern Dallas has the worst health in the county. Parkland’s investment might change that

Painless Stop Smoking

The mixed-use development springing up on the site of the former Red Bird Mall is still a giant construction site, but more doors are swinging open for southwest Dallas residents. Joining Starbucks, Foot Locker and Frost Bank at the reborn mall is Parkland’s latest primary care clinic, which is scheduled to open on Sept. 21.

In addition to primary care for families, the 40,000 square-foot health center — Parkland’s second largest community clinic behind the one at Hatcher Station in South Dallas — will offer specialty care for women, behavioral health services and physical therapy. The center features a rehab suite, a full-service lab, a pharmacy and many other conveniences.

This clinic is an addition worth celebrating. The Parkland RedBird Health Center is more than just a perk for the Reimagine RedBird development and the surrounding neighborhood. It’s a must-have for southern Dallas, where mostly Black and Hispanic residents suffer the worst health outcomes in Dallas County.

In 2019, Parkland published a county-wide assessment that documented significant health disparities based on race and geography. The five ZIP codes with the lowest life expectancies are in southern Dallas — and they’re all within a 12-mile radius of the RedBird Health Center.

Herron Mitchell, Parkland’s director of practice operations for southern Dallas County, said the public hospital’s mission with its clinics is to change lifestyles, not to simply treat patients and send them out the door. A dietitian at the RedBird Health Center will work with patients on nutrition and meal planning, and they will also have access to programs such as Parkland’s smoking cessation clinic.

“In my field, if you get to main Parkland, I have failed,” Mitchell told us.

Transportation is often a barrier to health care, so the RedBird Health Center will promote virtual visits, Mitchell said. The center will adopt lessons from other Parkland clinics that had to quickly embrace the technology last year out of necessity because of pandemic restrictions.

Diabetes, obesity and heart and pulmonary disease, along with COVID-19, are common ailments among patients in this area, Mitchell said. Three Parkland clinics in southern Dallas — Oak West, Bluitt-Flowers and Southeast Dallas — are seeing more patients than they did in the previous two years, with one clinic counting 9,000 more visits than it had budgeted for.

Mitchell said it’s unclear how the pandemic may have affected those numbers or how much the volume may be a reflection of efforts to improve access. At any rate, Mitchell sees the numbers as a good sign that people are seeking treatment before landing in the hospital.

In the last fiscal year, Parkland tallied nearly 56,000 hospital discharges and more than 1 million outpatient clinic visits, according to hospital statistics.

The Reimagine RedBird development will also feature a separate 150,000-square-foot outpatient clinic, the result of a partnership between UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Health. That clinic is expected to open in 2022.

We’re glad to see these major investments in the health of southern Dallas families, and we hope they start closing the gaps between residents in the north and the south. Longevity should be disentangled from our home address.

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