For Immediate Release, August 9, 2020
Community Health Centers across the nation are marking National Health Center Week (NHCW) the week of August 9 – 15th even as they fight COVID-19 on the frontlines. The national campaign is an annual celebration to raise awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s Health Centers over the course of five decades. This year’s observation is significantly different from years past when health centers organized health fairs, community celebrations and hosted state and local officials and Members of Congress at their clinic sites. Instead, this year’s NHCW honors the innovative work of health centers in addressing the pandemic and the memory of providers, staff, and beloved patients who lost their lives to the virus.
“As soon as the COVID virus was identified in the U.S. our health centers moved quickly to offer telehealth and to set up thousands of testing sites across the country—both stationary and mobile, while putting their own lives on the line,” said Tom Van Coverden, President and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “Their efforts have been critical to keeping non-emergency cases out of our already overburdened hospitals.”
Health centers are the largest primary health care system in the U.S., serving more than 30 million patients. More than 95 percent of health centers have the ability to test for the virus and have tested more than 2.4 million people since April. About 14 percent of tests are positive – far higher than the national average because many health center patients are America’s essential workers, people who harvest our food, stock grocery store shelves, or clean public spaces, and who do not have the luxury of telework or paid leave. Health centers serve one third of all people living in poverty. Two-thirds of patients are members of racial and ethnic minorities.
The 236,000 dedicated staff at health centers have sacrificed greatly for their efforts to save lives: over 11,300 have tested positive for the virus.
Van Coverden also noted the financial toll that the pandemic has exacted on health center operations. “Thousands of sites have been forced to close. Health centers need at least $7.6 billion to keep their doors open through November; and even more important, stabilized operational long-term funding is needed beyond November. Congress has been helpful with limited funding, but, it’s not enough. Many health centers are still at risk.”
The theme for NHCW 2020 is “Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities Today and in the Future.” During this week of remembrance, health center advocates will light candles on behalf of community health leaders and patients who were lost in the fight against COVID.
To learn more and view a list of events and sponsors please visit: www.healthcenterweek.org.