Here’s a sobering statistic: One in every 15 people living in the United States depends on services provided by a health center. These places do some amazing work in our communities, so it’s time to stop and think about their value during National Health Center Week.
In addition to delivering high-quality, cost effective and accessible care, health centers often are the economic hubs of their neighborhoods. Other businesses spring up around them, and the local economy benefits.
For more than 50 years, health centers have been improving (and saving) the lives of millions who otherwise might not be able to access medical care. They provide services to everyone who walks through the door, regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status.
This year, let’s dive a little deeper and look at some of the specific, and innovative, programs and services health centers provide, as well as ways we can all engage:
Aug. 13: Elected Officials Day. Contact your member of Congress, state legislator and city/county officials to express your support for health centers, and ask them to be more vocal when it comes to support and funding.
Aug. 14: Public Housing Health Center Day. Many health centers are near public housing, where residents are in great need of primary and preventive care. Often, they host health fairs and other events where you, your coworkers and friends could volunteer.
Aug. 16: Healthcare for the Homeless Day. Many health centers are in areas with large homeless populations in great need of care. They can always use donations of small items — socks, soap, feminine hygiene products — that they can give to patients who are being cared for.
Aug. 17: Agricultural Worker Health Day. Seasonal agricultural workers face many challenges, and getting appropriate, needed health care is high on the list. Health centers who work with these populations always need help and donations to cover mobile screening fairs and other outreach efforts.
Aug. 18: Consumer Board Member Day. Health centers have governing boards which include the very patients they serve, among other community members. Reach out and engage with a board member, if you can, to see what the center’s greatest needs are.
Aug. 19: Children’s Health Day. At-risk communities mean at-risk children. Health centers stand in the gap between kids and illness, and rely on community support so that they can see as many children as possible, especially for preventive care such as vaccines.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of ways to get involved. If you’re not sure where your local health center might be, reach out to the National Association of Community Health Centers, which was founded in 1971 to “promote the provision of high quality, comprehensive and affordable health care that is coordinated, culturally and linguistically competent, and community directed for all medically underserved populations.”