When there is a Community Health Center in your neighborhood it’s a boost for public health and the local economy. Health centers provide great care to people before they get sick (so they avoid hospitals) but they also create jobs and economic opportunity. A new article by Capital Link in Communities & Banking Magazine reports an analysis showing that “health centers collectively generated more than $23.4 billion in total economic activity for their local communities—an increase of 17.5 percent since 2009.”
The article notes that in addition to expanding access to care, health centers stimulate local economies in underserved areas by building or renovating facilities and by adding jobs. The economic benefits are triggered from the capital investment itself, from the health center’s operations, and from the ability to draw other development projects, like pharmacies, banking facilities, and retail upgrades. Also, local purchases made by health centers and their employees generate “a ripple effect” in the community.
The report also highlights several New England health centers that are creating such a ripple affect. A case in point is Codman Square Health Center, located in Dorchester–one of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods. The health center is Dorchester’s largest employer, contributing more than $31 million annually to the local economy. As a result of a $18.4 million capital project, in part funded by the Affordable Care Act, Codman Square increased patient access by 56 percent and its staff by 14 percent, generating an additional $27 million in economic impact during the construction period and 178 temporary jobs. That economic activity is expected to grow and continue. Codman’s philosophy of nurturing a “culture of health” that attends to the whole health of the person and community is key. The health center prides its relationship with the award-winning Codman Academy, a Boston charter school located within the health center. It also fosters creative partnerships with organizations that share its mission.
Generations Family Health Center in Willimantic, CT (some 35 miles from Hartford) is another example. The health center provides a full continuum of primary health care services, oral health care, behavioral health care, and case management and support services for people of all ages. The health center also has a mobile dental program for children and seniors. It has also generated a total of $14 million in economic impact a year since 2009 and employs 100 people. A capital project that doubled the health center’s s capacity to accommodate a 54 percent increase patient visits has also been an economic shot in the arm. By 2016 that economic impact should reach $24.8 million annually
Capital Link reports that over 76 percent of health centers have plans for capital projects that will accommodate more patients — and, likely, more innovative and cutting edge ideas that blend patient health with services that benefit the community. Many health centers are already putting them into action.