Every year we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King believed that a great nation is a compassionate nation and that “no individual or nation can be great if it does not have concern for [poverty and deprivation in their midst].”
In fact, Dr. King said “of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman,” during a Medical Committee for Human Rights press conference in 1966.
It is no surprise then that the Community Health Center Movement owes its existence to a remarkable turn of events in U.S. history, and to a number of determined civil rights activists, doctors, and community health leaders who fought to end discrimination and to improve the lives of Americans living in poverty and in desperate need of healthcare.
The tradition of lifting the barriers to healthcare for vulnerable populations continues today in communities across the country. Community Health Centers go beyond just treating patients to also addressing the social determinants of health— the factors that impact health such as housing, education, poverty, jobs and nutrition.
Unique Initiatives like the National Association of Community Health Center’s AmeriCorps program—Community HealthCorps—develops tomorrow’s healthcare workforce while promoting healthcare for America’s underserved. Every year Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members honor Dr. King by joining in a day of service. For example, this year’s Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members serving with AltaMed Health Services and the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County will create green spaces, hold a health resource fair, and provide college readiness resources at a local high school. Another Community HealthCorps team, across the country, with East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program will engage over 300 families experiencing homelessness in health activities, stressing the importance of physical activity, healthy eating, and tobacco cessation. (Visit the program’s national website, to learn more about what other Community HealthCorps teams are doing to inspire the communities they serve to make today a day on, not a day off.)
Through compassionate and culturally appropriate care, health centers provide more than 9,000 communities with quality care while achieving savings for communities in health and prevention. Health centers recognize that the health and social needs of their patients are complex and pervasive. For example, health centers often partner with other local organizations and stakeholders to offer fresh fruit and vegetables in food desert communities or offer computer literacy classes to help patients with the skills they need to be productive.
Determined to provide healthcare for all, health centers honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and give tribute to the many who continue to the struggle for social justice and healthcare equity—today and every day.