Merriam-Webster defines innovation as the “introduction of something new”. Many would agree that when it comes to our nation’s health care, innovation is needed now more than ever. However, as the health care landscape evolves, it is apparent that “something new” is indeed taking place. One of the driving forces behind health care advancement comes from a familiar and trusted resource – local Community Health Centers.
Community Health Centers were founded over 50 years ago, as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s major “War on Poverty” initiative. For over half a century, America’s health centers have been and continue to be innovators of public health.
This initiative paved the way for a local health care advocate named Terry Reilly to start the first Community Health Center in Idaho, over 45 years ago. Today, Idaho’s network of community health centers has provided timely, preventative, and primary care services through early diagnosis and treatment. Offering care to over 50% of Idaho’s uninsured, local Community Health Centers are an integral part of the state’s health care solution.
Nationwide, Community Health Centers serve more than 23 million people. This means that 1 in 15 Americans are served by a health center, this includes 7 million children and 260,000 veterans. Boasting in a health care model that offers incentives for outcome rather than fee for service, health centers have been successful in saving the U.S. health care system more than $24 billion in costs from preventable hospitalizations and avoidable emergency room visits from patients.
As drivers of this health care innovation, America’s Community Health Centers are laying the foundation for a better health care system by offering integrated primary, oral and behavioral health services. Community Health Centers place the focus on quality, convenience, and affordability.
Community Health Centers have often been stigmatized as being “free” clinics operated by a small group of volunteers who offer limited services. This characterization of health centers has prevented many people from using these accessible and cost effective resources. Many people have a misconceived idea that health centers are only available for people of a certain socio-economic status. The reality is that Community Health Centers are available for everyone, whether they have an insurance card or not. The draw to Community Health Centers is that they possess the ability to offer care on a sliding-fee-scale, reducing the cost of overall health care and billing patients according to their ability to pay
Patients get treated with dignity and respect by board certified clinicians and team based professionals who are focused on preventing costly illness and disease. Patient care is centered around preventative treatment, which leads to fewer Emergency Room visits, and as a result, saves money for consumers, taxpayers, and governments.
During the week of August 7th – 13th, community health centers across the nation will celebrate National Health Center Week. This celebration raises awareness around the mission and the accomplishments of America’s health centers. Community Health Centers in Idaho as well as across the nation will be celebrating in their local communities.
Community Health Centers enjoy longstanding bipartisan support by administrations and policymakers at all levels, as well as in both the private and public sectors. Irrespective of the policy debate, local Community Health Centers remain committed to innovating better quality, experience and affordable access for all Idahoans.