17 Sep The Role Community Health Centers play in rural communities
September 30 marks the end of the fiscal year and the deadline for Congress to renew the Community Health Center Fund. Without a bill passing Congress and being signed by the President by the end of the month, health centers risk losing access to the vital funds that allow them to continue their mission of providing affordable, accessible, high-quality care to local communities across the nation.
Throughout the month of September, we will be discussing the importance of health centers and their contributions to local communities throughout the United States.
This week, we’re looking at the role Community Health Centers play in rural communities. Health centers serve 1 in 5 rural residents across the U.S., reaching people in areas that often face greater challenges accessing or affording needed health care than the general population. On average, rural populations also have high rates of social factors associated with worse health outcomes, such as lower incomes, lower rates of health insurance coverage, and an aging population.
Health centers benefit rural communities because they offer a wide variety of services under one roof. This “one-stop shop” approach makes it easier for rural residents to not only see their primary care physician, but also receive behavioral health, dental and vision services at the same time.
Health centers are also growing their enabling services that facilitate access to care and help patients make better-informed decisions about their health – such as care coordination, transportation, translation, and health education.
Health centers have the ability to address the causes of poor health in rural communities and achieve better outcomes. For example, rural communities have historically had slightly higher rates of low birth weight babies, which is associated with future health complications, higher costs, infant mortality, and is considered an indicator of community health. Rural health centers are achieving better (lower) rates of low birth weight babies for their patients, and are even beating the national average. Additionally, they are narrowing disparities within rural communities, such as gaps in health outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities.
As economic engines, employers, and health providers to the under- and uninsured, Community Health Centers are essential to the overall well-being of underserved communities throughout the U.S. This is why we are urging Congress to take immediate action and extend the Community Health Center Fund before the September 30 deadline. Take 10 minutes of your time to send a message to your Members of Congress today!
Interested in learning more? Click here to read the new Community Health Centers Meeting Rural Health Needs Fact Sheet