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Health Centers: America's Primary  Care Safety Net Reflection on Success, 2002-2005 Health Resources & Services Administration US Department of Health and Human Services

Moving Forward

Rooted in a commitment to civil rights and social justice, the Health Center Program's creation was a landmark event in U.S. health care. What began with Jack Geiger and Count Gibson's founding of the Nation's first two health centers in 1965, has evolved into a network of more than 1,000 Health Center Program grantees that continue this proud tradition and today serve over 16 million people in urban and rural medically underserved communities.

While the past 6 years have been an unprecedented period of sustained expansion and quality improvement for health centers, looking ahead, there are a number of challenges for HRSA as it continues to support and improve access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable.


In response to recent reports highlighting the critical workforce needs in health centers as well as the ongoing challenges of recruiting and retaining high quality health care providers, HRSA is working with a variety of local State and national partners on shared solutions, including:

  • Identifying health centers with "best in class" workforce planning strategies and activities, including superior hiring, retention, and training of staff to assist other health centers in developing a more stable, viable workforce.
  • Maximizing health center linkages with the National Health Service Corps, Area Health Education Centers, health professions schools, academic and professional associations, etc.
  • Continuing to develop and identify resources that can be shared with health centers to improve workforce planning.

Health Information Technology

HRSA is working to:

  • Develop a strategy and supportive policy that leverages the power of health information technology and telehealth to meet the needs of people who are uninsured, underserved and/or have special needs.
  • Identify, disseminate, and provide technical assistance to health centers and other HRSA grantees in adopting model practices and technologies.
  • Disseminate appropriate information technology advances, such as electronic medical records systems or provider networks.
  • Promote grantee health information technology advances and innovations as models.
  • Work collaboratively with foundations, national organizations, the private sector, and other government agencies to help HRSA grantees adopt health information technology.

Emergency Management

HRSA is working to:

  • Foster collaboration with key stakeholders to ensure that health centers and other HRSA grantees are prepared to respond and recover from emergencies.
  • Identify, disseminate, and provide technical assistance to health centers and other HRSA grantees related to emergency management.

Quality and Performance Measurement

A key component of the success of the Health Center Program has been its ability to demonstrate to payers and patients the value of care delivered to those receiving health center services. The expansion of the Health Center Program and the resulting growth in the number of health center patients and services, along with technological advances and the development of provider incentive programs in the private and public health sector market, have underscored the importance of demonstrating that health centers continue to deliver high quality care to underserved populations.

In concert with the quality initiatives occurring within the broader health care community, HRSA is incorporating quality-related measures that place greater emphasis on health outcomes and demonstrate the value of care delivered by health centers funded under Health Center Program.

Through the implementation of these new measures HRSA will be able to publicly report on key successes of the Health Center Program in providing quality care to the underserved community. Further, individual health centers will have additional data to support ongoing performance and quality improvement.

Continuing the Mission

HRSA is proud to have supported and assisted the many dedicated health center staff, local, State, and national partners that have made the accomplishments highlighted in this report possible. These organizations have not only expanded, but strengthened the primary care base of this Nation.

As health centers face these and other new challenges, HRSA will continue its support of this proven model which has opened thousands of doors to a comprehensive, high quality health care home that is patient-driven and culturally and community-responsive.

Health centers will be an essential part of HRSA's mission of providing national leadership, program resources, and services necessary to improve access to culturally competent, quality health care to the Nation's neediest communities.

next page > Reflections on Success: Health Center Voices

Health center clinician considers the future
Health Center Performance

In 2008, health centers will begin program-wide collection of core quality of care and health outcome data in the following areas:

  • Early entry to prenatal care
  • Childhood immunizations
  • Cancer screening
  • Pap tests
  • Diabetes control
  • High blood pressure control
  • Reductions in low birthweight