For some of our most vulnerable members of society, finding quality care at an affordable price can be difficult if not impossible. Whether uninsured, in a low paying job, or in a rural community, many people wind up forgoing care at the expense of their own health.
Yet thanks to community health centers, more and more Americans are getting the care they need. For more than 45 years, community health centers have delivered comprehensive, high-quality preventive and primary health care to patients regardless of their ability to pay.
This week, we're celebrating National Health Center Week, where we pay tribute to the vital work of community health centers. Currently, there are over 1,100 health centers operating more than 8,100 sites around the country that provide care to nearly 20 million patients.
Health centers can be found in schools, hospitals and universities and in houses of worship, shopping centers and mobile vans. They are in urban neighborhoods and rural towns where care is scarce.
They offer preventive care to patients, young and old, to help stop health problems before they start. Nearly three-quarters of children who are treated at health centers receive all recommended immunizations by their 2nd birthday, and health centers provide prenatal care to almost half a million expectant mothers. Health centers help patients manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, so they can stay out of the hospital, and they provide much-needed dental and mental health care.
Community health centers do all of this at an affordable price, regardless of whether a patient can pay or not.
Furthermore, community health centers are an important source of local jobs and economic growth in many underserved and low-income communities. Total health center employment is more than 131,000 individuals nationwide, and health centers added more than 18,000 jobs over the last two years.
We have made expanding our nation's network of community health centers a top priority. Over the last two years, we've provided resources to help community health centers treat and care for an additional two and a half million patients. And the Affordable Care Act established the Community Health Center Fund that provides $11 billion over 5 a year period for the operation, expansion, and construction of health centers throughout the nation - including 28.8 million to 67 community health center programs across the country.
In the months to come, we'll continue to work to support America's community health centers and to achieve our ultimate goal of making sure every American, no matter where they live, has access to the primary and preventive care they need to stay healthy.
Follow Kathleen Sebelius on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sebelius