Join us as we proudly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Community Health Center Movement. August 9-15 is National Health Center Week. In Virginia, 29 community owned organizations operating more than 141 sites throughout our Commonwealth are a part of this national movement dedicated to providing access to primary care.
What are Community Health Centers?
Community, Migrant, and Public Housing Health Centers are non-profit, community-directed providers that remove common barriers to care by serving communities who otherwise confront financial, geographic, language, cultural and other barriers. Also known as Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), they:
- are located in high-need areas identified as having elevated poverty, higher than average infant mortality, and where few physicians practice;
- are open to all residents, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay;
- tailor services to fit the special needs and priorities of their communities, and provide services in a linguistically and culturally appropriate manner;
- provide comprehensive primary and other health care services, including services that help their patients access care, such as transportation, translation, and case management;
- provide high quality care, reducing health disparities and improving patient outcomes
- are cost effective, reducing costly emergency, hospital, and specialty care, and saving the health care system $24 billion a year nationally. (source: NACHC)
In the 1960s, as President Johnson’s declared “War on Poverty” began to ripple through America, the first proposal for the U.S. version of a Community Health Center sprung to life at the Office of Economic Opportunity. Funding was approved in 1965 for the first two neighborhood health center demonstration projects, one in Boston, Massachusetts, and the other in Mound Bayou, Mississippi.
Today, there are more than 1,200 Community Health Centers serving 23 million people at over 9,000 sites located throughout all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, health centers meet escalating health needs and bring good health to needy communities, without regard to family income, health insurance status, race, culture or health condition. In communities fortunate enough to have a health center, fewer babies die, emergency room lines are shorter and people live longer, healthier lives.
Both the Institute of Medicine and the General Accountability Office have recognized the nationwide network of health centers as effective models for reducing health disparities and for managing the care of people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and HIV. The American Academy of Family Physicians’ Robert Graham Center found that the total cost of care for health center patients is 41% lower annually than the total cost of care for individuals served by other providers (see NACHC fact sheet on cost savings). Health centers demonstrate that high-quality, continuous care to people and communities without adequate sources of health care can improve health outcomes, narrow health disparities, and generate significant savings to the health care system – up to $29 billion in annual savings — while bringing much-needed economic benefits to the low income communities.