Unless you are one of the 24 million people whose healthcare needs are served by the 400 Health Centers that operate approximately 9,800 service delivery sites, the term “Community Health Center” may not mean much. However, those facts were highlighted in a Presidential Proclamation declaring August 6 – August 13 as National Health Center Week. At I’m Taking Charge, we are especially grateful for their free breast cancer screenings. Let’s take advantage of this time to highlight the important part these centers play in the communities they serve.
Health Centers are located in some of the most under-served communities and serve some of the most vulnerable populations, providing their only source of primary and preventive care options. The ACA (Affordable Care Act) has played a most important role in enabling Health Centers to add more than 950 new service delivery sites across our country.
Do you know that one in every 15 people use the services offered at a community health center, or that they deliver high quality, cost effective, accessible care, and save the healthcare system over $24 billion annually (according to National Association of Community Health Centers)?
Health Centers Serve Children and Uninsured
So who are the people who benefit from the services offered by Health Centers? For starters, over seven million children use community health centers for their healthcare needs, as well as 300,000 veterans. Health centers are also one of the only places that over 1.1 million homeless people can receive medical services. Sixty two percent are minority, 75 percent are uninsured or covered by Medicare, and 92 percent have family incomes that fall 200 percent under the poverty line.
People who use Community Health Centers often work long hours that make it difficult to seek medical treatment. Health centers offer hours that are more convenient for the busy lives of working people, like weekends and nights. These centers are open to everyone, and are almost always accepting new patients. They have more services like dental, and eye care all under the same roof, and easier access to programs available to low income families, because they are community governed.
Free Breast Cancer Screenings, Among Other Crucial Services
Some of the most important services health centers make available to low income women are educating and promoting early detection, breast and cervical cancer screenings, including breast exams and pap smears at no cost, referral for a free mammogram at local hospitals, and offering low-cost tests and procedures.
It easy for some to dismiss health centers as possible wasted government spending before you have a complete understanding of how important these centers are to the communities they serve. Health centers are literally lifesavers for so many people who cannot afford the quality care so many of us take for granted. Sometimes though, all it takes is putting a human face to the discussion to bring a little empathy to an issue.