Community health centers provide quality care for all

National Health Centers Week will be celebrated from August 7 to 13. Now is the time to recognize the heroes of health centers everywhere. We also celebrate the steady progress we are making to provide care for those struggling with a health care system that too often fails to recognize or prioritize those who are underserved and underresourced.

Health centers lead the way in ensuring that a person’s bank account or place of birth does not dictate the quality of health care they receive. For more than 50 years, community health centers have become pillars of public health, providing care and services to people from all walks of life. Today, CHCs are working harder than ever to ensure healthy communities across the country.

Laura Thurman of Cherokee Health Systems speaks with Director of Outreach Ministries Katie McIlwain at the Fig Tree, a homeless community outreach program sponsored by Cokesbury United Methodist Church, June 1.

The health centers provide preventive and primary care services to nearly 29 million people across the country. Our spectrum of care spans from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response, to treating chronic health conditions, to addressing social drivers of health like food insecurity. CHCs provide care to people who disproportionately suffer from chronic conditions and who lack access to affordable, quality care. Approximately 30% of our patients at Cherokee Health Systems do not have health insurance. A larger percentage is still underinsured.

Community health centers are invaluable. They reduce health care costs by up to $24 billion a year, lower chronic disease rates and boost local economies. Clinically, we are held to high standards of quality and patient safety. We are also making significant progress in promoting health equity for communities facing health disparities. Although our approach is community-based and local, collectively we are the backbone of the country’s primary care system.

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Parinda Khatri

At Cherokee Health Systems, we provide integrated primary care, behavioral health, dental, and optometry services to more than 70,000 people in Tennessee. As a community health center, we must meet rigorous standards of care for quality and patient safety. Our service to the community goes beyond providing health care. Through a team-oriented, person-centered model of care, we address a range of factors that contribute to poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness, lack of nutrition adequate and unemployment. As an essential part of the health care system, we work with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health outcomes for vulnerable and at-risk people.

Now more than ever, our role as a provider of comprehensive care for all, regardless of ability to pay, is crucial. Access to basic care remains a challenge in parts of the United States. Many people live in remote and underserved communities where there is a shortage of healthcare providers, especially those who will see uninsured people. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on wellbeing, resulting in a national mental health crisis. Far too many people experience social, behavioral and medical inequalities. Our mission is to meet these challenges to improve the quality of life and health of all.

At Cherokee Health Systems, it’s a privilege to be the preferred healthcare provider of many and a port in a storm for those with no other access to care. We appreciate your continued support of our mission. We will be there when you need us.

Parinda Khatri is the Managing Director of Cherokee Health Systems.

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