About Our Health Centers

<100,000 Served

The first Community Health Centers (then called “Neighborhood Health Centers”) are funded as demonstration programs under the federal Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).
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500,000 Served

The National Association of Neighborhood Health Centers (NACHC) is created by early community health leaders to provide education, training and technical assistance to health center staff and Board Members.
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1 Million Served

After operating for 10 years as a demonstration program, the Community Health Centers Program is authorized under Section 330 of the Public Service Act (PHS).
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4.5 Million Served

The Reagan Administration’s “New Federalism” calls for dramatic restructuring of the federal-state relationship and proposes to block grant.
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5 Million Served

Health centers rally bipartisan support in Congress to repeal the primary care block grant and return the Health Center Program to a direct federal-local partnership base and to increase health center funding.
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The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act

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6.5 Million Served

Congress designates Federal Qualified Health Center (FQHC) status to all federally funded health centers.
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8.6 Million Served

Health Centers confront threats to their financial viability as pressures grow to reduce federal spending and dismantle and block grant numerous social programs, including Medicaid.
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10.7 Million Served

Supporters in Congress stave off the phase out of Medicaid FQHC payments and establish a Prospective Payment System to prevent revenue losses to health centers.
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15.6 Million Served

President George W. Bush fulfills a campaign pledge calling for a five-year Health Center Expansion Initiative.
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16 Million Served

With the spiraling national debt, pressures intensify to rein in spending and reform Medicaid.
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The Health Care Safety Net Act

Health Centers are featured in a New York Times article as a cost-effective, bipartisan program that reduces health care costs and narrows health disparities.
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20 MILLION Served

With investment from ARRA and the ACA, health centers become the largest primary care network in the country – expanding into some 9,300 medically underserved communities.
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23 MILLION Served

Health Centers serve more than 23 million patients -- one out of every 15 Americans.
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24 MILLION and Growing

Community Health Centers mark the 50th Anniversary of the Health Center Movement
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Community Health Centers

America’s Health Centers owe their existence to a remarkable turn of events in U.S. history, and to a number of determined community health and civil rights activists who fought more than 50 years ago to improve the lives of Americans living in deep poverty and in desperate need of healthcare.

Among those determined to change these conditions was H. Jack Geiger, then a young doctor and civil rights activist who, while studying in South Africa, witnessed how a unique community-based healthcare model had brought about astonishing health improvements for the poorest citizens of that country.

Moving on the opportunity presented by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s major War on Poverty initiatives in the early 1960s, Dr. Geiger and other healthcare pioneers submitted proposals to the federal Office of Economic Opportunity to establish health centers in medically underserved inner city and rural areas of the country based on the same healthcare model Geiger had studied in South Africa. Funding for the first two “Neighborhood Health Centers” (as they were then called) – one in Boston, Massachusetts, and the other in Mound Bayou, Mississippi – was approved in 1965, and the Community Health Centers Program was launched.

The health center model that emerged targeted the roots of poverty by combining the resources of local communities with federal funds to establish neighborhood clinics in both rural and urban areas around America. It was a formula that not only empowered communities to establish and direct health services at the local level via consumer-majority governing boards, but also generated compelling proof that affordable and accessible healthcare produced compounding benefits.


Community Health Centers serve as the primary medical home for over 25 million people in 9,200 rural and urban communities across America.  These community-based “family doctors” enjoy longstanding bipartisan support by Administrations and policymakers at all levels, as well as in both the private and public sectors.

“What is a Community Health Center?” (Abbreviated)

Health Centers: Paving the Road to Good Health

America’s Health Centers: An Enduring Legacy, Value for Today and Tomorrow

For photos, stories and more information on the history of America’s Health Centers visit the CHC Chronicles.

For information on the Community Health Center Alumni Association (CHCAA) and related events visit the CHCAA.