Health Center News

A Cause and an Opportunity Meet 50 Years Ago

1 LBJIt was 50 years ago today that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act.  From that moment on Community Health Centers were launched as a fledgling program; healthcare in American was never to be the same again. “To measure how far our nation has come in terms of progress in healthcare access, it is important to look back at where Community Health Centers started 50 years ago,” writes Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President of NACHC in a recent blog post for  the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County.  “It began with a cause — and then an opportunity. The cause, undertaken by community activists and reform-minded doctors, was to bring needed health services into poor and neglected communities nationwide. From Mississippi to Watts, communities rose up around the cause of health equity. President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty was the opportunity we needed to respond to this demand.”

And indeed the demand for care remains, but today we celebrate our progress in meeting those needs over the course of five decades, and indeed the recognition and support received along the way.  Health centers defy the political odds by drawing rare support and agreement from leaders who may not agree on most things.  But both Presidents George W. Bush and President Barack Obama did agree that Community Health Centers needed to be in more communities, and both leaders made it possible.  As an editorial in the New York Times today noted:

The health centers got a start under President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, expanded slowly over the years, and then got a huge lift from President George W. Bush, who doubled federal financing for the centers over five years and created or expanded almost 1,300 clinics in medically underserved areas. He admired the cost-effectiveness of the nonprofit centers, which treat low-income people and recent immigrants in poor urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas and serve patients who would otherwise seek more expensive care in emergency rooms or hospitals…The 2010 Affordable Care Act further expanded the program with increased funding over a five-year period, and the larger system of clinics is one of health care reform’s most praiseworthy achievements.

It is this legacy of achievement and bipartisan support that we celebrate today as we prepare to gather with the thousands of health center professionals from around the country for the NACHC Community Health Institute in Orlando, Florida.

Stayed tuned!