Community health centers provide primary and preventive health care services for people living in rural and urban medically underserved communities, regardless of their ability to pay. Health centers overcome economic, geographic, and cultural barriers to primary health care, and they tailor services to the needs of their communities.
The Community Health Center Movement
Community health center roots can be traced back to the 1960s “War on Poverty” and the Economic Opportunity Act, from which emerged the first community health center model. This model proposed combining the resources of local communities with federal funds to establish neighborhood clinics around the United States. The number of community health center delivery sites has grown from two in 1964 to over 5,500 nationwide, with over 140 in Washington State.
What Makes a Community Health Center?
Community health centers are a unique type of medical provider. As a requirement of their funding, community health centers must comply with a broad range of requirements designed to provide high-quality, affordable health care to typically underserved communities and populations:
- Serve all those who seek care, regardless of their ability to pay
- Be community governed – 51% of each health center board must be patients
- Offer multiple services, including primary medical, dental, and mental health services
- Provide supportive services, including translation, transportation, health education, case management and insurance enrollment
- Commit to demonstrably improving the health status of underserved populations
Community health centers provide this broad array of health care services via funds from public health insurance programs, federal, state, and local grants for the uninsured, reasonable sliding scale fees from patients, and small private donations.
A Model for the Future
The community health center model is uniquely designed to address the health care needs of vulnerable and underserved people and communities. The health center model is groundbreaking, demonstrating solutions to some of our country’s most persistent health care problems. Read more about the community health center model.
Learn More About Community Health Centers
Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers - WACMHC
Northwest Regional Primary Care Association - NWRPCA
National Association of Community Health Centers - NACHC
United States Bureau of Primary Health Care - BPHC- HRSA