In honor of National Health Center Week (August 7-13), today we salute Boston's 22 community health centers! Community health centers not only provide valuable, quality health services, they also provide jobs and income to local residents and help power local economies! Nearly 1 million patients or 1 in 7 residents in Massachusetts are served by the state's 50 health centers. Massachusetts health centers also generate 14,000 jobs and contribute $2 billion to the state's economic output. They play an important role as economic engines in their neighborhoods, and of course, in improving overall community health. Their services extend beyond the four walls of their clinics, and their partnership and leadership is valued within their communities and beyond.
Health centers: A Boston first
Did you know that the nation's first health center is in Boston? In the mid-1960s, Drs. Jack Geiger and Count Gibson, together with Tufts University Medical School, developed the concept of a health center and obtained support from the federal Office of Economic Opportunity, in order to create the American Community Health Center (now known as Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center) at the Columbia Point housing developments in Dorchester. Before the health center, the residents of the Columbia Point housing developments had little access to health care services.
The opening of the city's first health center also led to a grassroots movement in Boston, involving community activists, local residents, city agencies, local community leaders, and Boston hospitals, and resulted in the opening of 18 additional health centers in the city by 1971. From the beginning, health centers in Boston have championed health equity for the underserved by improving access to quality care.
Continuing a tradition: Innovating for health equity
Boston's community health centers continue to innovate to improve health equity today, including addressing social determinants of health. Through Boston REACH: Partners in Health and Housing, with funding made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four Boston community health centers, the South End Community Health Center, Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, Upham's Corner Health Center, and Whittier Street Health Center, are working to improve the health of residents living in neighboring Boston Housing Authority (BHA) developments. Initiatives include improving access to affordable, healthy foods; engaging BHA residents in the Community Advisory Boards of local health centers; promoting youth leadership development; and improving BHA resident access to community-based health and social services and resources.
Boston REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health): Partners in Health & Housing is a 3-year initiative (2014-2017) to improve the health of Boston residents, especially Black and Latino residents, living in Boston Housing Authority (BHA) developments and BHA-Administered Rental Assisted/Section 8 Housing. Through the Partnership in Health and Housing (PHH), comprised of the Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Housing Authority, Boston University's School of Public Health and the PHH Community Committee (public housing residents and community advocates), Boston REACH: Partners in Health & Housing is working to:
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