Raising Awareness About Community Health Centers

October 11, 2022

Wood River Health Celebrates Health Center Week

Wood River Health Celebrates National Health Center Week

HOPE VALLEY, RI (August 5, 2022) – National Health Center Week 2022 will be celebrated August 7 to 13. The goal of the annual event is to raise public awareness about Health Centers such as Wood River Health Services and the critical services they provide in their communities.

Community Health Centers serve as a beacon of strength, service and care in their communities. They are not just healers, they are innovators who look beyond medical charts to address the factors that may cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, lack of nutrition, and unemployment. They are a critical piece of the health care systems and collaborate with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health outcomes for people who are medically vulnerable.

Eight Health Centers operate in the Ocean State, and one out of every five Rhode Islanders call a health center their medical home. Collectively, America’s Health Centers provide preventive and primary care services to over 30 million patients at 11,000 service delivery sites located in every state and territory in the United States.

“The Community Health Center Model was designed to remove barriers and challenges to care such as the lack of transportation, different languages, literacy, and race, by providing services in communities where people would otherwise not have access to doctors, primary care, and other essential health services,” stated Alison L. Croke, Wood River Health’s President and CEO. “Community Health Centers were also among the first to go beyond the four walls of medicine to address the causes of chronic and poor health conditions such as nutrition and food insecurity, homelessness, dangerous environmental conditions and unemployment.”

Community Health Centers owe their existence to a remarkable turn of events in U.S. history, and several community health and civil rights activists who fought more than 50 years ago to improve the lives of Americans living in deep poverty and in desperate need of health care. Among those determined to change these conditions was H. Jack Geiger, then a young doctor and civil rights activist who, while studying in South Africa, witnessed how a unique community-based health care model had brought about astonishing health improvements for the poorest citizens of that country.

Encouraged by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s major War on Poverty initiatives in the early 1960s, Dr. Geiger and other health care pioneers submitted proposals to the federal government to establish health centers in medically underserved inner city and rural areas of the country based on the same health care model Geiger had studied in South Africa. Funding for the first two “Neighborhood Health Centers” (as they were then called) – one in Boston, Massachusetts, and the other in Mound Bayou, Mississippi – was approved in 1965, and the Community Health Centers Program was launched.

The mission of Community Health Centers remains crucial today because access to basic care remains a challenge in parts of the United States. Many people live in remote and underserved communities where there is a shortage of providers and, in many cases, the nearest doctor or hospital can be as far as a 50-mile drive in another county.

While Wood River Health Services’ approach is community-based and local, Community Health Centers as a whole are the backbone of the nation’s primary care system. Together, they lower health care costs by approximately $24 billion a year by reducing the rates of chronic diseases and stimulating local economies.

To learn more about National Health Center Week, visit