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National Health Center Week 2022: Community Health Center Values

 
National Health Center Week, an annual celebration to raise awareness of the accomplishments of community health centers, will be held August 7-13. Join us in celebrating community health center values!
 
National Health Center Week (NHCW), held August 7-13 this year, is an annual celebration to raise awareness of the mission of community health centers and recognize their accomplishments. As NHCW 2022 approaches, we are reflecting on the unique values that differentiate health centers from other health care providers. 
 
What makes community health centers different than other providers? 
Community health centers are federally-funding primary care clinics and accept all patients regardless of whether they have health insurance or can pay for care. Health centers have roots in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and President Johnson's War on Poverty and carry on this legacy by addressing both medical and non-medical factors that shape the health of patients and communities.1

Learn more about the values of community health centers: 
 
Comprehensive Services
Community health centers provide comprehensive preventive and primary care using an integrated care model. Patients who visit a health center can receive services such as primary care, behavioral health care and substance use disorder treatment, and dental all under one clinic. Beyond medical care, health centers break down barriers to care through enabling services. These services address needs such as transportation that can keep patients from accessing care. Health centers also offer programs that help patients become and stay healthy, such as ‘food pharmacies' in their clinics where patients struggling with food insecurity can access nutritious foods. 
 
Located in Areas of High Need  
Community health centers are designated as Health Professional Area Shortage (HPSA) facilities. Health Professional Shortage Areas are facilities, geographic areas, or populations with shortages of health care providers.2 Health centers provide high-quality care to all patients, but given their designations as HPSAs, health centers operate in underserved communities and care for the most vulnerable populations. Tennessee's health centers have locations in 68 of the state's 95 counties often serving as one of the only affordable sources of care in these areas. 
 
Health Center Patients as Board Members
Since their founding, health centers have been community-driven organizations. Health centers must be governed by patient-majority boards, ensuring they are directly responsible and accountable to the needs of their patients and communities. 
 
Open to Everyone 
By mission and statute, community health centers care for all patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay for care. Sixty-nine percent of health center patients in Tennessee have incomes below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and 31% of patients are uninsured.3 Community health centers rely on sliding fee scales based on patients' incomes to ensure all patients can afford care.  
 
Care for Vulnerable Populations 
Health centers care for vulnerable populations, including people experiencing homelessness, migrant, and seasonal agricultural workers, and the nation's veterans. Health centers in Tennessee care for more than 22,000 people experiencing homelessness, 6,100 veterans, 6,300 migrant and agricultural workers, and 43,800 patients best served in a language other than English.4 All health centers care for these patients, but some offer special programs and services to provide expert care meeting the unique needs of these populations. 
 
Promote Health Equity 
By their nature, health centers improve health equity by breaking down barriers to health care and meeting patient's non-medical needs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, health centers demonstrated their impact on health equity. According to data from the Boston University School of Public Health, 61% of COVID-19 vaccines were administered to patients of color compared to 40% administered by other providers.5  
 
How can you support Community Health Centers?
Given their origin in the Civil Rights movement and long-standing bi-partisan support, community health centers have a history of being strong advocates at the state and federal levels. Advocacy is critical to ensure health center values can continue to support their communities.

Become a health center advocate today to support the future of these critical providers: https://www.hcadvocacy.org/join/ 
 
 
 
[1]  History of Community Health Centers. (2022). Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. Retrieved from https://www.massleague.org/CHC/History.php 
[2]  What is Shortage Designation?. (2022). Health Services & Resources Administration. Retrieved from https://bhw.hrsa.gov/workforce-shortage-areas/shortage-designation
[3]  Tennessee Health Center Program Uniform Data System (UDS) Data. (2022). Retrieved from https://data.hrsa.gov/tools/data-reporting/program-data/state/TN
[4]  Ibid.
[5]  Cole MB, Raifman JR, Assoumou SA, Kim J. Assessment of Administration and Receipt of COVID-19 Vaccines by Race and Ethnicity in US Federally Qualified Health Centers. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(1):e2142698. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.42698

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