Celebrating the impact of community health centers

Shunda Young is well versed in how Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), commonly known as community health centers, can be an instrumental part in developing healthier communities. Having worked as liaison for various FQHCs, she’s watched patients not just find medical and behavioral care, but also hope and kindness in a time of uncertainty. 

She remembers one time at an event at an FQHC. when a mother and daughter approached a UnitedHealthcare relationship specialist with tears in their eyes, explaining their concerns about being able to afford an expensive medication, without knowing whether they were covered by health insurance. 

An employee took the mother and daughter into the clinic to help them find solutions. Soon after, they came out smiling as the mother was able to receive the prescription for a much lower cost. They were also connected with local organizations, like food banks in the area, that could assist with the family’s other needs.

“FQHCs are in the community – for the community,” Shunda said. “They are tied to the community. Instead of driving to a big clinic, people can go right there in their neighborhood and get the same standard of care.”

There are 1,400 FQHCs nationwide, with over 11,000 locations that deliver services. FQHCs have a few characteristics that make it different from other providers:

  • Provides primary and preventive care for little to no cost for those who need it.
  • Based in communities that have a high need for health care services. About 72% of FQHC patients are uninsured or insured through Medicaid. 
  • Services are comprehensive. Besides primary care, this also includes dental, vision, behavioral and more of a one-stop shop for health care. 
  • Receives extra federal funding to serve Medicaid and Medicare members.

WHO health centers care for some of our most vulnerable, including: 

  • 802,630 School-based health center patients
  • 355,648 Veterans
  • 1,361,675 Homeless patients
  • 3,466,074 Public housing patients

WHO health centers serve 1 in 12 people in the U.S. including: 

  • 1 in 3 people living in poverty
  • 1 in 5 people in rural areas
  • 1 in 6 Medicaid beneficiaries
  • 1 in 8 people of a racial/ethnic minority
  • 1 in 9 kids

But it’s not just a commitment to low-income Americans, FQHCs also offer high-quality care that patients appreciate. For example, a study has shown that FQHCs can reduce disparities in hypertension care versus a private practice. And a study notes that the collaborative care of an FQHC can be more effective in the treatment of opioid use disorder. 

Each year, the work these centers provide to a local community is celebrated during National Health Center Week, which this year runs from Aug. 4-10. With the theme of “Rooted in Communities” and with over 1,800 celebrations across the country, it’s a recognition of the crucial work Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) perform for 28 million Americans every year. 

UnitedHealthcare is involved in National Health Center Week events at more than 500 sites across the country. These efforts can be anything from thank you cards to providers, healthy snack bags for patients and collaborating with other local organizations for health fairs.

For Shunda, who has worked at UnitedHealthcare in various roles for 24 years, National Health Center Week is only the beginning. 

“I tell (the FQHC) ‘let’s brainstorm to draw members to your location year-round,’” she said.

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