The Positive Impact of Community Health Centers
August 5, 2019
In a world where healthcare topics are becoming increasingly divisive, there is still one healthcare delivery model that secures hearty bipartisan support: Community Health Centers.
Community Health Centers (CHCs) were formed over 50 years ago as the brainchild of Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a young physician with a heart for addressing gaps in healthcare by providing affordable and accessible primary healthcare. His innovative care model showed that improving the health of the most vulnerable populations not only improved the lives of those treated at the health center, but the lives of their families, surrounding communities, and beyond.
Today, CHCs are the primary healthcare providers for over 28 million patients across the United States. Dr. Geiger’s mission continues as CHCs continue to bridge gaps to care by reducing (and in some cases eliminating) the barriers of cost, transportation, and language translation. CHCs still provide primary care, but they have branched out to also deliver preventative and innovative programs to communities across the country.
CHCs enjoy bipartisan support for good reason. They improve community members’ quality of life, while at the same time saving our country billions each year in healthcare costs by providing preventative care and reducing unnecessary emergency room visits. CHCs also create jobs in the communities they serve, provide wraparound services, and give people a place to access healthcare when they are uninsured.
For the faith community, CHCs are a tangible representation of the call of scripture to care for the vulnerable in our communities. In Jeremiah 22:16 the Lord describing a faithful follower says “He defended the cause of the poor and needy… Is that not what it means to know me?”
CHCs improve the lives and health of those on the margins of our society, while also helping our entire healthcare system run more efficiently. This is the beauty of following our call to defend the cause of our neighbor, that when their health improves, ours does too.
What does the future look like for CHCs? It depends.
Currently, NETWORK and our advocacy partners are being called once again to support these health centers. Right now, without Congressional action, $4.0 billion of funding for the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF) will expire on September 30, 2019. With healthcare demands increasing, the promise of continued existence without adequate funding is not
enough. We need the leaders in Congress to act to ensure that funding for CHCs will continue and increase to meet demand and address health disparities in our communities.
Afton Neufeld is a NETWORK volunteer currently obtaining her Masters in Social Work at University of Nevada, Reno. Her social justice heroes include Jesus, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Catholic Sisters.