ABC News’ Sarah Tobianski reports: First lady Michelle Obama took a road trip down to a community health center in rural Virginia this afternoon to illustrate the roles that preventative care and wellness play – even in smallest towns – in health care reform.
“[Patients] wind up lurching from illness to illness, and crisis to crisis, getting emergency care instead of health care,” Mrs. Obama said to a crowd of 100 in Bowling Green, Va. “And we wind up spending billions of dollars each year to treat diseases that – for far less money – we could prevent in the first place.”
Mrs. Obama participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Caroline Family Practice, a renovated grocery store thanks to a $1.3-million federal stimulus grant. Last month, she announced that $850 million in stimulus money was being released to help such clinics provide care nationwide.
Overall, the president's economic stimulus program provides $2 billion for upgrading and expanding community health centers. Mrs. Obama said that money would expand primary care services to more than 2.8 million people, create jobs and address the shortage of primary care physicians.
"I remember Marcus Welby; that's the doctor everybody wanted to be," she said, referring to a popular television program that featured a kindly doctor.
Mrs. Obama isn’t the only first lady to delve into health care reform. Early in her husband’s first term in office, former first lady Hillary Clinton made an unprecedented move into policy as chair of the task force devising the administration’s plan for universal health care, known heartedly by opponents as “Hillary Care.”
More recently, Clinton carried her quest for universal health care into her campaign for the 2008 presidential nomination.
Mrs. Obama’s campaign has taken on a personal note, grounded in her husband’s efforts at the grassroots level. Community centers go beyond prescriptions and specialists, Mrs. Obama said, to provide the personal care to make sure patients can fill out prescriptions and find specialists and transportation.
“It's about the human connections that people make with the people and the communities that they serve,” Mrs. Obama said. “It's about the steps you take above and beyond what's required, because you really care about your patients. It's about the peace of mind that you give to people with nowhere else to turn. And that is the story of community health centers in America.”
A spitting image of health was the oldest resident of Caroline County, 109-year-old Maggie James, whom Mrs. Obama complimented for her fuchsia outfit.
“In fact, people in some of the countries that spend less than we do are actually living longer than we do here in this nation,” Mrs. Obama said. “And one of the main — that's other than Ms. James, of course.”
Also in attendance – the first lady of Virginia, Anne Holton, and her daughter, Annella Kaine, the daughter of Gov. Tim Kaine.
FLOTUS Fashion Watch: Mrs. Obama wore a royal blue, sleeveless dress – no necklace because three flowers accessorized the dress’ neckline.