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2021 NHCW: Get to Know Tennessee’s Community Health Centers

 
National Health Center Week (NHCW), coming up August 8-14, is an annual celebration to raise awareness of the mission of community health centers and recognize their accomplishments. As NHCW 2021 approaches, we are taking time to reflect on how health centers, their staff, and their patients each play a part in advancing the health center movement.  
 
TENNESSEE'S COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS
 
Tennessee is home to 29 community health center organizations that deliver comprehensive primary care services through more than 200 sites across the state. Health centers have locations in 70 of the state's 95 counties, often serving as the only providers of affordable primary care services in underserved urban and rural areas.  
By mission and statute, health centers must provide a core set of primary care services and non-clinical services to all patients, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. Although health centers are bound by a common mission, each health center tailors its services and support to meet the needs of their communities.  
 
Medical Services
Health centers integrate primary care with other services such as behavioral health, substance use disorder treatment, dental care, pharmacy services, and vision services based on needs of their patients and communities. These services are often provided under one roof to make it easy for patients to get the care they need. Health centers grow and adapt to the changing needs of their communities with some offering more specialized services such as X-rays and diagnostic services.
 
Non-Medical Services
By mission and statute, health centers must also provide enabling services, which address common barriers patients experience when trying to access care. These services include: case management, assistance with transportation, eligibility assistance for health insurance programs and nutrition programs, health education and health literacy.1 

Enabling services address the social determinants of health. These are non-medical factors that encompass the conditions in which people are born, live, work and play.2 Some examples include safe and secure housing the availability and affordability of nutritious foods, and reliable employment.  

To address food insecurity, some health centers partnered with local organization to co-locate food banks in their clinics or offer food boxes to patients. Others provide items such as diapers and personal hygiene items to patients. One health center provides special clinic to treat coal miners, operates a shelter for survivors of domestic violence, and runs a financial literacy program to care for the entire community. 
 
Special Populations
All health centers are adept at addressing social determinants of health, but some are experts at caring for special populations, such as people experiencing homelessness and migratory and seasonal agricultural workers. Certain health centers receive dedicated funding to care for people experiencing homelessness, and many are located near shelters or have mobile units to provide care to those folks. A handful of Tennessee's health centers are part of a federal program to care for migratory and seasonal agricultural workers. These centers offer culturally and linguistically appropriate services to agricultural workers by conducting outreach and traveling to different farms to provide care. 
 
 
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You don't have to be a staff member or patient at a health center to support the mission of health centers in your community. By signing up to become a health center advocate, you will be notified about opportunities to invest in community health centers. 
 
 
 
[1]  Health Center Terms And Definitions. PDF file. Health Resources and Services Administration. https://www.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/grants/apply/assistance/Buckets/definitions.pdf.
[2]  Social Determinants Of Health.Who.Int. World Health Organization. Last modified 2021. https://www.who.int/health-topics/social-determinants-of-health#tab=tab_1.