America’s Health Centers owe their existence to a remarkable turn of events in U.S. history, and to a few determined community health and civil rights activists working in low-income communities during the 1960s. Millions of Americans living in inner-city neighborhoods and rural areas throughout the country suffered from deep poverty and a desperate need for health care. Among those determined to seek change was H. Jack Geiger, then a young doctor and civil rights activist. Geiger had studied in South Africa and witnessed how a pioneering community health model had wrought astonishing improvements in public health. You can view a video of Dr. Geiger recalling the early days of the Community Health Center Movement at the 2010 NACHC Policy and Issues Forum. You can also view a timeline of the Community Health Center movement by visiting this link.
In the 1960s, as President Johnson’s declared “War on Poverty” began to ripple through America, the first proposal for the U.S. version of a Community Health Center sprang to life at the Office of Economic Opportunity. Funding was approved in 1965 for the first two neighborhood health center demonstration projects, one in Boston, Massachusetts, and the other in Mound Bayou, Mississippi [View video, Out in the Rural].
Today, there are over 1400 Community Health Centers serving more than 27 million people at 10,000 sites located throughout all 50 states and U.S. territories. Health centers help reduce the incidence of chronic disease in the most challenging rural and urban communities, generating $24 billion in health care cost savings. Health centers are also innovators, working with community partners to respond to public health crises, such as the opioid epidemic and natural disasters. Not only do they focus on illness prevention, they also target the social determinants of health — the factors that may cause illness.
Resources/Links for Media:
If you are a member of the news media and would like to learn more about the mission and work of health centers, or wish to interview a health center professional or patient, please contact:
Amy Simmons Farber
NACHC Communications Director
Phone: 301 347-0400
Mobile: (202) 309-0338