Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, issued a statement in honor of Community Health Center Week, which spans Aug. 5-11 by proclamation of President Obama.
Sebelius noted the theme of the week is “Powering Healthier Communities.”
“We keep in mind that for 45 years, community health centers have served individuals and families whether they have private insurance, insurance through a public program like CHIP or Medicaid, or no insurance at all,” Sebelius said.
“They are a proven healthcare model. When a community health center opens up or adds new services, the benefits can ripple through an entire community. They are a place where mothers can take their children for dental checkups, where seniors can fill their prescriptions, where families turn when they need help finding a job or access to child care services, and so much more.”
Community health centers treated about 20.2 million people in 2011, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. Of that population, nearly two-thirds were members of ethnic or minority groups, about a third were children and 36% had no health insurance.
The centers employ more than 11,800 nurses, 9,900 physicians and 6,900 nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse-midwives “in a multi-disciplinary clinical workforce designed to treat the whole patient through culturally-competent, accessible and integrated care,” according to HRSA.
The Affordable Care Act includes $11 billion in investments in community health centers to add locations, hire providers and expand their menus of services to the nations most vulnerable populations, Sebelius said. The ACA also has bolstered the ranks of the National Health Service Corps, placing physicians and nurses where needed most.
Community health centers figure to play an essential role in the implementation of the ACA, according to HRSA, through their emphasis on coordinated primary and preventive services and their status as a medical home that promotes reductions in health disparities for low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, rural communities and other underserved populations.
“These investments and the work of community health centers mean more people are getting primary care and staying out of the emergency room, which can lower healthcare costs for the whole community,” Sebelius said. “They mean kids are getting the immunizations they need to thrive in school, which can raise educational achievement. They mean adults can fill prescriptions and manage conditions so they dont miss work, meaning productivity can rise.”
More on community health centers is available at www.Nurse.com/Article/HealthCenters.