The NACHC Community Health Institute (CHI) & EXPO wrapped on Tuesday, August 29, and both conference attendees and NACHC staff are going home refreshed, rejuvenated, and with a renewed sense of mission. The NACHC hybrid conference was the largest ever with more than 2,500 health center leaders, policy experts, consumers, and corporate partners gathering under one roof in sunny San Diego.
New NACHC Leadership Takes the Stage
Conference attendees took advantage of cutting-edge content from education sessions, found inspiration in the wisdom of keynote speakers, and elected a new Chair of the NACHC Board of Directors, Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez, MS, MPH, President and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Health Plan, Inc. Urban Health Plan is one of the largest Community Health Center networks in New York State.
At his first CHI, NACHC’s new President and CEO Kyu Rhee, MD, MPP, talked about his life as a purpose-driven physician and underscored how essential health centers are to the U.S. health care delivery system.
“Today, the Community Health Center Program is a vital part of our nation’s health delivery system — thanks to your ideas and your mission driven dedication to social justice and equity …Kyu Rhee, NACHC President & CEO
Many of you in the audience today — indeed throughout this Movement — are no doubt pioneers and creative thinkers who have found yourselves, many times out of necessity, and for the betterment of your communities to be entrepreneurial. And your creativity, collaborative nature, and sense of duty have led you and your teams over the years to foster solutions and widen access to care at times when the challenges and opportunities facing your organizations seemed to be happening all at once.”
Key policy topics of focus during the NACHC CHI included the urgent need for Congress to pass a funding extension for health centers before it expires on September 30th, protecting 340B and the millions of Americans losing Medicaid coverage through redeterminations.
The Importance of Advocacy and Community Organizing
With the stakes never higher, especially when it comes to health center funding and protecting the 340B drug discount program, speaker after speaker emphasized the need to strengthen our collective voice on behalf of health centers.
NACHC’s Policy and Advocacy team encouraged attendees to engage with their elected officials and share why health centers need funding from Congress. As they pointed out repeatedly: 31.5 million patients and health center staff are counting on us!
General Session Topics Focus on Workforce Retention, Equity, and Inequality
The Opening Keynote Speaker, workplace strategist and bestselling author, Erica Keswin, drilled down on trends in the workforce and strategies for engaging and retaining employees, a key area of focus for the health center community where refortifying the primary care workforce remains a critical issue.
The second day of CHI fell on the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, a key moment in the Civil Rights Movement that helped launch the Community Health Center Movement. That day’s General Session focused on racism and inequality. First, NACHC’s Task Force on Undoing Racism presented the following statement on behalf of the organization:
“NACHC recognizes that the profound racial and ethnic health disparities in the US are rooted in long-standing institutional and systemic racism. Furthermore, NACHC recognizes that racism is a public health issue and public health crisis. The Community Health Center Movement was born in our country’s struggle for Justice against prevailing systems of racism. This is our heritage and our mission.”NACHC Task Force on Undoing Racism
Later, Heather McGhee, educator, and author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, led conference attendees through a historical account of structural inequality in the United States. McGhee described the pervasive impact of systemic racism, howe it can be found throughout American society, from public swimming pools to housing.
“Racism is driving inequality at a cost to almost everyone,” McGhee said, citing by way of example the health disparities of the COVID-19 pandemic in which racial and ethnic were disproportionately affected because they were “least likely to be able to quarantine, least likely to avoid public transportation and most likely to be incarcerated and least likely to have access to clean air.”
Closing keynote speaker D.J. Eagle Bear Vanas, thought leader, storyteller and author, The Tiny Warrior, ended the conference with a motivating inspiration, describing the NACHC conference as a place where “givers gather.” He urged attendees to “stay on your warrior path” toward mission and health equity, while underscoring the importance of self-care to manage stress and trauma, on the frontlines of health care.
Save the date for the 2024 CHI & EXPO, which takes place August 25-27, location TBD!