In 1965 the nation’s first community health centers were launched as a small demonstration program as part of the President Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity. With roots in the both the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty, the earliest health centers had as their mission no less than using the health care system to change the health and lives of their communities’ residents.
Since their early days, health centers have flourished as perhaps few would imagine. By 2008, more than 1200 health centers, including health centers specializing in health care to migrant farmworkers, homeless persons, and public housing residents operated in over 7500 sites and provided health care to 17 million medically underserved patients throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories.
Today health centers have become part of the nation’s primary health care foundation, distinguished by their mission to community, the quality of their care, their affordability and accessibility to all community residents, and perhaps most uniquely, their community governance. All health centers have governing boards more than half of whom are patients of the health centers.
Every health center is an embodiment of its community’s aspiration for better health and health care, and CHroniCles aims to honor health centers by creating a special place that allows each health center to tell its history in its own voice and in a way that allows the entire nation to pay a visit. The project is a special partnership of the RCHN Community Health Foundation, The National Association of Community Health Centers and the Geiger Gibson Program in Community Health Policy at the Milken Institute School of Public Health and Health Services at The George Washington University.