(RxWiki News) Health care is often seen as a basic need. But for those dealing with tough economic times, layoffs or language barriers, this basic need can be difficult to access and afford. It's for this reason that Community Health Centers exist.
Community Health Centers aim to provide basic and affordable health care to people across the US.
National Health Center Week is being celebrated August 11 through August 17, and organizers are calling for increased public support for these centers.
"Seek medical help when a health issue first develops."
According to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), the organizers of National Health Center Week, Community Health Centers serve more than 22 million people at over 9,000 sites across the US. These facilities include homeless, migrant and public housing health centers.
"Community Health Centers save money every time an uninsured patient opts for an exam and treatment at the first sign of a health issue instead of waiting until a costly emergency room visit is the only option," explained NACHC. "Health centers also save money for Americans looking for work whose families could otherwise face poor health without care, or piles of medical debt."
And the demand for this affordable, accessible health care is great. As reported on the National Health Center Week website, there are 44 million uninsured people in the US, and an additional 56 million who may have health care but don't have access to doctors or health services in the area they live.
According to NACHC, 72 percent of health center patients are at or below the poverty line. Thirty-six percent are uninsured and 40 percent rely on Medicaid. Most are racial and ethnic minorities, and live in either rural areas or economically struggling inner cities.
The Community Health Centers attempt to overcome "barriers to care" through methods like transportation services, translation, home visitation and culturally tailored services, depending on the location. NACHC also reported that the facilities "...are open to all residents, regardless of insurance status, and provide free or reduced cost care based on ability to pay."
NACHC noted that economic benefits of the centers could extend beyond just the patients served there. According to the association, in 2009, the facilities produced more than 189,000 jobs in economically depressed areas and generated about $20 billion in economic activity in the neighborhoods.
According to NACHC, celebrating National Health Center Week is an important part of both recognizing individual community centers' daily work and rallying public support on a larger scale.
"Health centers depend in large part on public financial help and need a unified voice and common source for research, information, training and advocacy," reported NACHC.