(This message originally appeared as an editorial in the Tennessean on August 12, 2016.)
Communities across Tennessee have celebrated events recently as part of National Health Center Week, August 7-13. Health centers hosted back-to-school drives, community breakfasts, patient appreciation events, free health screenings, and much more.
The goal of National Health Center Week is to raise awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America's health centers over the course of more than five decades. This year's theme was â€œCelebrating America's Health Centers: Innovators in Community Health." In Tennessee there are 29 Federally Qualified Health Center organizations, also known as FQHCs, operating nearly 200 clinic sites.
This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded more than $100 million to 1,304 health centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the five U.S. territories and the three Freely Associated States to invest in health center quality improvement, building upon their achievements in providing high quality comprehensive care. Health centers will use these funds to expand current quality improvement systems and infrastructure and to improve primary care service delivery in the communities they serve.
More than $8.6 million in funding was awarded in August to 246 health centers in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the Federation of Micronesia and the Northern Mariana Islands to help improve quality of care and patients' and providers' experience of care through the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) health care delivery model.
In Tennessee, Hope Family Health Services, Lewis County Health Center, Mercy Community Healthcare and Primary Care and Hope Clinic received $35,000 each.
"These awards will help health centers deliver comprehensive care that puts the patient at the center,"Â said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. "More families in communities around the nation will have access to medical homes where a range of health care needs, including oral health, primary care and behavioral health services, can be coordinated and met."
In July, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced more than $36 million in funding for 50 Health Center Controlled Networks (HCCNs) in 41 states and Puerto Rico. This increase in health information technology support will impact more than 1,020 participating health center organizations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. In Tennessee, the Tennessee Primary Care Association was awarded $750,000 to support 22 participating health centers.
HCCNs improve access to care, enhance quality of care and achieve cost efficiencies through the redesign of practices to integrate services, optimize patient outcomes, or negotiate managed care contracts on behalf of participating health centers.
It happens thousands of times every day in Tennessee. Healthcare providers securely access critical information to know if a person may be at risk for an overdose, an adverse drug interaction or treatment for a substance use disorder. The information they're reviewing is within Tennessee's Controlled Substance Monitoring Database, an online resource that is literally changing lives across the state.
Through a grant from the United Health Foundation, TPCA has contracted with Dietitian Associates, Inc., of Memphis to provide nutrition counseling for patients served by Tennessee health centers. Patients with diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions have been referred to this program. The referrals are conducted through telehealth using either a telehealth cart or a personal computer.
Since the program began in August 2015, more than 400 completed appointments have occurred for adults and children. This program encourages healthy lifestyles, including healthy eating and increased activity, self-management of chronic conditions, and weight control. Obese children have lost weight and underweight children who participate in the program have gained weight.