This guest post is written by Arvind Shaw
As the CEO of Generations Family Health Center in Willimantic – and the chair of the Board of Directors of the Community Health Center Association of CT (CHCACT) –I was pleased to read a recent study in the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management that found that Community Health Centers (CHCs*) are on the leading edge of care specific to racial/ethnic disparities.
Analyzing 2009 data, researchers found that differences in certain health measures between white and African American patients, and differences between white and Latino patients, were smaller among CHC patients than across the general US population. The three quality measures examined in the study are hypertension control among adult patients, diabetes control among adult patients, and low birth weight among newborns.
Of course, my colleagues and I – and over 20 million US residents who visit one of the 1100 community health centers annually – already know about the high standard of culturally appropriate care for patients of all races and ethnicities. And now a growing body of research supports the contention that CHCs demonstrate equal or better performance on select clinical quality measures, despite serving patients who have more chronic disease and socioeconomic complexity.
Here in Connecticut, fourteen community health centers provide medical, dental and behavioral health care to over 315,000 residents every year, 94% of whom have income below 200% of federal poverty level. They also provide assistance with enrollment for Medicaid/HUSKY and SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) and are major economic drivers, employing 2800 individuals across the state. Health centers will play an increasingly important role throughout the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in impacting disparities, as more people seek preventive care.
Why are health centers so well-positioned to reduce disparities? Health centers are the local grassroots healthcare response to the community need. They are governed by local boards and employ staff who live locally as well. These strong bonds and local connections ensure that health center services are uniquely designed to deliver culturally appropriate care. The ongoing, continuous efforts to deliver the highest quality care in culturally appropriate ways pay off in the lessening of health disparities – and help people of all racial/ethnic identities become empowered to manage their own health.
Find the health center closest to you, at www.chcact.org!
Arvind Shaw is the CEO of Generations Family Health Center, a federally qualified health center with four sites of service in Eastern Connecticut, and three mobile programs, serving 19,500 patients. He is the Chair of the Board of the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut and also a also a commissioner (treasurer) of the Connecticut Health Equity Commission and a member of the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.
*Also often called Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHCs