Hispanics, Uninsured Represent Largest Portion of Increase in Patients Seeking Care at Community Health Centers
The demand for services at federally approved community health centers has increased dramatically within the last 10 years, and Hispanics are "outpacing" all other groups seeking care, according to data from the Health Resources and Services Administration, USA Today reports (Wheeler , USA Today, 7/18).
There are 952 federally approved community health centers, which serve more than 14 million poor and uninsured individuals, USA Today reports. The centers, which focus on preventive care, usually are located in medically underserved areas and serve mostly minorities. Community health centers are required to treat patients regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay.
Since 2000, Congress and the Bush administration have almost doubled spending for community health centers to about $2 billion. At the same time, the number of centers has increased by more than 200 and the number of patients has increased by 4.5 million, or 53%, according to USA Today. In addition, the number of Hispanic patients at community health centers has increased by 52%, to 4.8 million. The centers are treating only about one-third of the total number of people who need such services, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers, and demand for services exceeds the number of available providers.
Benefits to Minorities
Community health centers' ability to perform "effectively and efficiently" has been "overlooked" amid the reports of millions of uninsured people and rising health costs, USA Today reports. According to USA Today, the clinics "give expectant mothers greater access to prenatal care, increase childhood vaccinations, lower infant mortality rates and improve the prognosis of patients living with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure." A 2004 analysis published in the Journal of Public Health Policy said that black women who received care at community health centers were significantly less likely to deliver a low-birthweight infant. The centers also help to reduce racial health disparities, USA Today reports.
HRSA Administrator Elizabeth Duke said, "We've been able to make health centers available to a lot more people in places that have never had health centers. In the very best sense, (this) is what's right about America" (Wheeler , USA Today, 7/18).
Several other newspapers reported on community health centers. Headlines appear below.
- "Health Centers Feel Strain as Demand Rises: A Safety Net for Those Lacking Insurance, Clinics Lack Space, Staff, Access to Specialists" (Jenks, Florida Today, 7/18).
- "Growth Strains Community Health Centers: Specialists, Other Doctors Are Needed" (Pinto/Wheeler, Tennessean, 7/18).
- "Baltimore Centers Provide Unique Service to Most Vulnerable Patients" (Wheeler , USA Today, 7/18).
- "Health Care Climate Critical, but Westside Pulls Through: Community Center Sets New Standard in Ensuring Well-Being" (Taylor/Wheeler, Wilmington News Journal, 7/18).