Health Care for Immigrant Families in the United States
Vidar Jorgensen, United States
Antigua Forum 2015
When Vidar Jorgensen attended his first Antigua Forum gathering, in January 2015, he hadn’t planned on bringing a project. As majority owner of three companies that manage over two hundred conferences annually, he was happy to simply contribute to others’ projects. But as co-founder of the microfinance organization Grameen America, he also was hoping to get ideas for a new venture to make both finance and health care available to low-income populations. He decided to pitch a project.
Vidar told the Antigua Forum participants how Grameen America has built upon Grameen Bank, which together with Muhammad Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering efforts in microfinance. In the United States, Grameen America successfully provides loans to mostly poor immigrant women for income-producing activities. These same women and their families obtain health care at high-cost, low-quality clinics. Vidar and his team were in the process of establishing Grameen PrimaCare as a nonprofit that would serve this market in Queens, New York. The venture was early stage, with many questions.
The Antigua Forum participants worked with Vidar to come up with strategies and solutions. Digging deeply, it soon became clear that Grameen PrimaCare and Grameen America should have a common leadership that aligns the interests of both organizations. Participants also drew on lessons from other countries on how to support the health of low-income populations. These included strategies on how to blend health care with other valuable services, such as tips on where to find stores that sell day-old bread or reduced-price produce. Such services help attract new customers to the member-based clinic, and encourage them to come for care. Other recommendations focused on a number of low-cost activities, such as bottle collection, to help fund the project while building a sense of community. Vidar was surprised by how many ideas never would have occurred to him. Then he went home and implemented them.
When Vidar came to the Antigua Forum, Grameen PrimaCare was just getting started. A year and a half later, it had seven hundred members. There is still a lot of work to be done, but Grameen PrimaCare is moving in the right direction as a separate legal entity that is closely coordinated under the leadership of Grameen America president and CEO Andrea Jung.