Today, President-Elect Joe Biden proposed the expansion of Community Health Centers to fight health disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic. Declaring that “equity is essential to our COVID response,” Biden detailed a five-point plan that focuses on providing COVID vaccinations in marginalized, medically underserved communities. Among the highlights of the plan are mobilizing federally supported vaccination sites across the country, invoking the Defense Production Act to boost vaccine supply and surging the public health force.
“Within the first month of our Administration, we are going to deploy mobile clinics, moving from community to community, that will partner with Community Health Centers and local primary care doctors to offer vaccines to hard-hit and hard-to-reach communities,” said Biden.
Other key highlights of the Biden plan include:
- Launching a new program with health centers so they can directly access vaccines where they are needed. The Administration will also encourage jurisdictions to engage and work closely with health centers in community vaccination planning.
- Ensuring that health centers have the resources they need to successfully launch vaccination programs.
- Calling on Congress for additional funds to support health centers and the Department of Health and Human Services to start new programs to provide guidance and technical assistance to providers nationwide.
- Mobilize a public health jobs program to support the COVID-19 response and funding 100,000 public health workers to nearly triple the public health workforce for community health tasks such as vaccine outreach and contact tracing. These individuals would eventually transition into community health roles to build long-term public health capacity and improve quality of care and reduce hospitalizations for underserved and low-income communities.
“We are deeply appreciative to the incoming Biden Administration for their recognition of health centers’ work on the frontlines of the pandemic for these many months,” said NACHC President and CEO Tom Van Coverden. “We are especially grateful that our voices have been heard regarding the urgent need to arm health centers with the tools they need as partners in the national vaccination effort, ensuring that our children, our elderly and disabled, and all of our workers are protected. We will continue to work with the President-Elect and his team to reach our mutual goals.”
The Biden proposals are outlined in a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, called the American Rescue Plan, which aims to change the course of the pandemic towards eradication, build a bridge towards economic recovery, and invest in racial justice.
Community Health Centers serve 30 million patients nationwide, including millions of essential workers – those who harvest our food in the fields, clean public spaces, care for our elderly and work in our factories and stores. Their patients include 14.5 million people living in poverty, 2.9 million people 65 and older, 19 million people who are of minority backgrounds, 1.5 million homeless people, and 20 million people with chronic health conditions. Health centers have tested more than 7 million patients to date for COVID and helped divert non-acute cases from overwhelmed hospitals for nearly 11 months.
Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured.