Community Health Centers Play Important Role in Addressing Care Disparities

Julie Bitely

| 3 min read

Doctor talking to patient
Why do some groups of people tend to have better or worse health than others? Why do these disparities impact marginalized communities most? There are many factors, inside and outside of the health care system. High quality education, jobs, safe housing, transportation and a healthy environment support good health. When it comes to health care, being able to access high quality health and mental health care is critical. Michigan community health centers play a critical role in addressing disparities in access to high quality health care. Currently, there are 45 community health center organizations offering services to patients at 330 sites. In 2018, health centers served 709,675 patients, including 214,185 children. Many of the patients who seek care at these health centers face significant barriers to access care, according to the Michigan Primary Care Association. Here are four ways that community health centers work to address disparities and improve health for everyone in communities around the state.
  1. Access to quality, affordable care Community health centers address disparities in access to care by seeing everyone, charging a nominal fee on a sliding scale for uninsured patients with limited incomes. People with a regular source of health care have better health, fewer disparities and lower costs. Patients are more likely to receive preventive services, catching chronic conditions earlier, resulting in better outcomes.
  2. Culturally competent service When patients are treated with dignity and care that embraces their cultural background, they’re more likely to develop a positive relationship with a health care provider. Community health centers typically set up shop in underserved neighborhoods. In 2018, Michigan health centers provided more than 91,000 enabling services, including translation, which also helps patients feel at ease.
  3. Preventive, integrated care Health centers provide medical, dental, mental health care and health promotion in one setting. More importantly, providers from all these disciplines work together to make sure the patient receives the best care possible. Patients can also schedule multiple services on the same day. This is one way that Michigan health centers provide more accessible and higher quality care. In 2018, Michigan health centers provided 555,522 dental care services and 30,740 vision services. More than 258,000 behavioral health services were also provided.
  4. Connecting patients to additional services Knowing that the complex needs of their patients don’t stop at health care, health centers also connect patients to social services, such as food and housing assistance. Many employ care management staff to help patients navigate systems and get help so they’re in the best position to take care of their health.
This patient-centered approach works particularly well for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Michigan health centers beat national rates for helping their patients control both conditions. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has a long-standing commitment to improving the health of all Michiganders, and as part of this mission, we have supported community health center’s efforts to increase access to needed services in the communities they serve. Grants have helped health centers innovate and expand operations to meet the unique needs of their communities.

Find a center near you.

If you’re interested in a complete list of safety net health care providers, including community health centers, free clinics and others, we have helpful brochures for locating care in Southeast Michigan, Mid-Michigan, West Michigan and Northern Michigan. You can also search by zip code for a list of community health centers here. Related:
Photo credit: Geber86
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association