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The Health Center Program: Serving America’s Communities for 50 Years

For 50 years, health centers have led the way with high-quality care for millions of Americans.

Fifty years ago, two small health clinics – one in the countryside of Mississippi and one in the city blocks of South Boston – decided to try something novel. They were the pioneers of the Health Center Program, launched in 1965 as a demonstration project of the War on Poverty. Those two health centers committed to providing high-quality health care to residents in their community, regardless of their patients’ ability to pay. 

Today, the Health Center Program has blossomed into a national primary care network of over 1,300 health centers in communities across America, including my hometown of Hinton, West Virginia. These health centers care for nearly 23 million individuals who live in areas where there aren’t enough doctors, hospitals and other providers to care for the population. That’s 1 in every 14 people living in the United States.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, health centers have taken on an even larger role in our nation’s health care system by helping more than 10 million people learn about their options for affordable health coverage and providing a health care home to many of the newly insured.

Health centers are also on the front lines of transforming our health care system. In health centers across the country, providers are working as teams to coordinate their patients’ care. As a result, patients are put in the center of their own care – empowered, educated and engaged to take charge of their health.

By shifting their focus from the volume of services to the value of care, providers are able to do their jobs even better. Health centers meet some of the highest standards for coordinated, quality care. In fact, today over 69 percent of health centers are recognized by national organizations as patient-centered medical homes, the most promising model of high-quality primary care.

The Health Center Program’s focus on quality has done so much good in areas of our country where access to care is limited. Despite treating a sicker, poorer and more diverse population than other health care providers, health centers outperform national averages in chronic disease management, preventive services and perinatal measures. 

At HHS, we’re committed to building a health care system that delivers better care, spends our health care dollars more wisely, and puts empowered and engaged patients in the center of their care to keep them healthy. For 50 years, health centers have led the way with high-quality care for millions of Americans.

For 50 years, health centers have led the way with high-quality care for millions of Americans: #NHCW15

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