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Health & Medicine

1 in 11 Americans Use Community Health, Resources Stretched Thin

— February 21, 2024

Community health centers are lacking funding as demand for services increases and inflation affects healthcare costs.

There are almost 1,400 healthcare organizations throughout the country that have been designated as community health centers by the federal government. Those facilities play a vital role in offering healthcare to those who might not receive it otherwise – nearly 10% of the population visits these types of centers to get the medically attention they need. While the centers are incredibly busy, which speaks to the demand that exists for their services, they are also under stress, and many are struggling to keep up and move forward.

In listening to the real-world patients of these facilities, it’s easy to see how valuable they are to the communities they serve. People talk about the feelings of home they have when visiting for care, the support they get from the staff, the convenience of getting quick support, and help with things like health insurance and even good stamps. To be sure, not having these facilities available – or as available as they are currently – would be a big blow.

Not only do these facilities play an important role, but the need for their services is growing. Over the last decade, the use of community health centers has grown by nearly 50%. Given the modest resources available to keep these locations operating, many are struggling to keep up with the overwhelming demand. To keep going, and to thrive while helping those who need care most, they will likely require both additional funding and more available staffing.

1 in 11 Americans Use Community Health, Resources Stretched Thin
Photo by Kirill Dratsevich from Pexels

That last point on staffing is particularly important. Many of the providers who were working in this capacity retired during the pandemic or found other opportunities. There is often more money available in other areas of healthcare, or more flexibility in terms of things like working hours. It takes a person who is passionate about providing care for the individuals who need this kind of help to stick with it for the long run and make a true difference in the community.

If the community health centers across the country are going to be able to continue providing care at the same levels that they have been for years, it is estimated that more than $2 billion in additional annual funds will be required to support an increase in demand for services. This accounts for both the inflation of costs in the healthcare sector (and across the rest of the economy), along with the growth in patient numbers. The centers simply cannot continue to offer the same level of care to patients if these funding needs are not accounted for moving forward.

Community health centers should be not overlooked in the big picture of healthcare throughout the United States. It an important component of the system that keeps the population as health as possible, so funding will hopefully be made available to maintain access to such centers – and to expand access, as needed. The patients of these centers often don’t have an alternative they can turn to for help, so keeping the community health center model moving forward is critical.


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