2021 NHCW: The Community Health Center Model

National Health Center Week, coming up August 8-14 this year, 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.
Community Health Center Model
Federally Qualified Health Centers, or community health centers provide high-quality, comprehensive primary and preventive care to all patients, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. Health centers provide holistic care by integrating services such as behavioral health care, substance use disorder treatment, oral health care, and pharmacy services. Beyond medical needs, health centers improve their patients' overall health and well-being by supporting access to housing, nutritious foods, and transportation.
Patient-Centered and Team-Based Care
Community health centers practice patient-centered care. This means the patient's unique needs and goals direct their care and patients and their families are partners in health care decisions.1 Health centers ensure patients receive the most appropriate care to address their comprehensive clinical and non-clinical needs while keeping the patient informed every step of the way.
Health centers excel at patient-centered care because they offer care that is collaborative, coordinated, and accessible. The integrated services health centers provide naturally lend themselves to team-based care in in which multiple providers work together to meet the physical, mental, and emotional, and social needs of patients.2
When patients visit a community health center, in addition to their primary care provider, they may receive care from a behavioral health provider, a dentist, and a pharmacist while also interacting with a case manager, or an eligibility assistance worker. Each of these providers plays a role in improving the health and well-being of the patient.
For example, a patient may have multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The patient may also be experiencing depression, which makes it difficult for the patient to stay active and adhere to their medications.
When the patient comes to a health center, the primary care provider may prescribe or adjust certain medications, recommend changes to nutrition and physical activity, and connect the patient with a behavioral health provider at the center. The patient may also receive nutrition counseling or participate in a special program to address diabetes including support from a health coach along with workshops and fitness classes.
Although all health centers provide patient-centered, team-based care, some health centers are designated as Patient-Centered Medical Homes. This designation recognizes health centers for their achievements for care coordination and continuous quality improvement.3 The success the health center model an initiative such as the PCMH program are shown to improve health outcomes.
Health centers have higher percentages of patients with controlled blood sugar levels (68%) and hypertension (65%) than the national averages of 59 percent.4 In addition to improved health outcomes, health centers deliver care at a lower cost than other providers with 24% lower spending for Medicaid patients than other providers.5
The community health center model results in improved patient outcomes and healthier communities. By implementing patient-centered care and team-based care, health centers have positioned themselves as leaders in improving population health and reducing health disparities.

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[1] "What Is Patient-Centered Care?". Catalyst.Nejm.Org, Last modified 2017.
[2] Ibid.
[3] "HRSA Accreditation And Patient-Centered Medical Home Recognition Initiative", Bureau Of Primary Health Care, Last modified 2018,
[4] "Health Center Program: Impact And Growth". Bureau Of Primary Health Care, Last modified 2020.
[5] Ibid.



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