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The Importance of Community Health Centers

Community health centers are vital in promoting accessible and equitable healthcare for all. With the focus of many public health initiatives shifting toward health equity, the online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) – Educational Leadership – Health and Human Services program from Youngstown State University (YSU) allows individuals to join that essential and growing work.

Thanks to dedicated health and human services coursework, YSU graduates explore current public health challenges and the impact of education and healthcare reform. They develop strategies to advocate for underserved individuals, partnering with local leaders and organizations to build outreach programs that foster health and wellness.

What Is the Role of Federally Qualified Health Centers?

Community health centers, also known as federally qualified health centers, provide a wide range of medical services to residents in underserved communities. These centers are a critical part of public health infrastructure, operating as safety nets for millions of people with few or no essential healthcare services options. Individuals may not have consistent access to care due to being uninsured, having a lower income or inadequate transportation.

The centers are not free, but care is often offered at reduced pricing or sliding-fee scale to keep prices affordable for various incomes and household sizes. According to GoodRx, about one-quarter of community health center patients do not have insurance, and 48% have Medicaid. The facilities ensure these individuals have access to basic healthcare services and continuity of care that enhances their well-being.

What Healthcare Services Do Community Health Centers Provide?

Services commonly provided at community health centers are:

  • Vaccinations
  • General dental care, including teeth cleaning
  • Gynecological care, including prenatal and perinatal
  • Checkups and well-care for kids and adults
  • Preventive screenings
  • Prescriptions

Some community health centers may also offer outpatient behavioral and mental health care, substance abuse treatment and urgent care facilities, though availability varies.

What Are the Benefits of Community Health Centers?

Community health centers aren’t just places to get medical help. They are pillars of the communities they serve and have a profound and lasting impact on residents. The following are some main benefits to community health centers:

Community Health Choice

Nearly one-third of the U.S. population lacks access to a primary care provider, including about 25 million children, reports USA Today. Coupled with an uptick in rural hospital closures, this leaves about 100 million U.S. citizens without primary healthcare.

Community health centers support these medically underserved areas, ensuring residents have a choice in their healthcare across their lifespan. Centers see about 31.5 million patients annually, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers, with the possibility of seeing more patients as federal funding increases.

Addressing a Community’s Unique Health Needs

One of the most significant aspects of community health centers is their ability to address the unique healthcare needs of their communities. The center staff works closely with individuals and families to understand the community’s socioeconomic, cultural and linguistic diversity and how those factors impact wellness. They tailor services accordingly, creating patient-centered care models and community outreach programs to meet patients where they are and address the most pressing health concerns.

For example, community health programs were instrumental in testing and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs have long been a staple in addressing maternal mortality, food insecurity, the opioid crisis and school needs.

Improving Outcomes and Reducing Disparities

By offering many services at affordable prices in one place, the centers ensure patients get personalized care for all their needs. These sometimes-small interventions can have a significant impact on reducing disparities and contributing to a healthier community. As individuals receive support in making healthy choices to prevent disease, they can take control of their health and lessen the likelihood of needing costly medical interventions later.  

How an Advanced Degree Can Help

Community health centers are often the main healthcare in areas with few physicians and medical facilities. They provide affordable primary care across the lifespan, creating more resilient communities and bridging long-standing health inequities.

Graduates of an advanced, postgraduate degree — like the YSU online Ed.D. program in educational leadership and health and human services — have the knowledge and skills to implement social projects, like community centers, for widespread population health. Through courses like Building Organizational Culture & Community Partnerships, graduates of YSU’s program understand the value of community for individual and population well-being.

Learn more about YSU’s online Ed.D. – Educational Leadership – Health and Human Services program.

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