Community health centers in the US have a 45-year history of providing quality healthcare in the various underserved communities without taking into account their ability to pay. A board of directors that mainly comprise of health center patients runs the community health centers, and they ensure that the care delivered is designed in a way to meet the needs of the community properly.

Community health centers quickly demonstrated that they could put the additional federal investments to work and that they have the capability to offer health care for increased number of patients. As these centers are neighborhood-based and patient-directed, they can easily identify the health needs of the community to design effective solutions based on the community’s needs.

The statue that resulted in the creation of community health centers needs these units to meet four basic standards.

  1. Should be located in or serve high needs community

Community health centers should serve the many medically underserved areas that have limited number of primary care physicians, a high percentage of persons living in poverty, increased percentage of elderly people, and higher than average infant mortality rates.

  1. Should offer comprehensive health care services

Community health centers should also offer a wide range of “enabling” services. This is to support the delivery of affordable and consistent health care to the people in the community.

  1. Should provide health care to all, irrespective of their ability to pay

All community health centers should commit to offering their healthcare services to all with fees that are based on a standard. There should be a sliding fee schedule that adjusts the charges for the healthcare services as per the income of the person.

  1. Should be governed by a board

Governing boards of community health centers should be comprised majorly of health center patients (minimum of fifty-one percent) and the members of the board should have the authority to oversee all the operations of the health center. The powers of the board include budget approvals, firing, and hiring chief executives, and the establishment of general policies for the community health center.

These mandatory standards will ensure that the community health centers are serving the community in which it is located, effectively, and efficiently.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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