Nationally, there are nearly 1,400 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) like the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center (CBWCHC) that deliver comprehensive, high quality and affordable health care to its community. Serving diverse rural and urban populations in the United States, health centers ensure that everyone, especially the uninsured, has the opportunity to get the care they need.
During National Health Center Week, CBWCHC staff shared their reasons for celebrating community health centers.
Community Health Centers Are For Everyone
“I love the idea that community health centers can be a welcoming and inclusive place,” says Sumana Rao, RN, MBA, clinical director. “As there are more movement of people and influx of families, [many may experience] more distress and stress. It is important to be more welcoming than ever.”
Sumana believes that health care is something that everyone needs and can benefit from. Passionate about helping individuals who are challenged by fewer economic opportunities, she sees the value of community health centers where individuals receive care regardless of their ability to pay. At the Health Center, individuals who do not have health insurance can pay on a slide scale fee based on income and family size.
“When I think of ‘community,’ I think of a place that takes you in and helps you. It’s what I love about the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, and it’s what I want to work on,” says Sumana.
Community Health Centers Provide Holistic Care
Federally funded community health centers are established on providing comprehensive primary and preventive healthcare. This means that patients can see a doctor for annual checkups and vaccinations, as well as have access to important services such as social work, mental health counseling, health education, health insurance enrollment, and more.
Looking at CBWCHC as an example, Kathy Li, MPH, CHES, health educator from the Health Education Department, describes the Health Center as a one-stop shop where all the services you need is within one organization. “We are a community health center. You need internal medicine? Internal medicine is there. You need pediatrics? Pediatrics is there. We have dental, mental health, OB/GYN. It’s very convenient.”
Most importantly, there is a multidisciplinary team that is embedded in community health centers. “[At CBWCHC] we are very interpersonal and inter-professional,” says Kathy. “In Health Education, we need to work with doctors, dentists, and social workers to create and provide the quality of care to patients.” In other words, patients are not just cared for by one provider—care is delivered by a team of professionals.
Community Health Centers Use Innovative Practices and Put Patients First
Community health centers are at the forefront of connecting community members and underserved populations to quality care. As each community has unique health needs, health centers act as a place for innovation where programs are created to address their needs. Located at the core of Manhattan and Flushing’s Chinatown, the Health Center is able to develop community-based programs such as the Special Needs Initiative, Hepatitis B Program, and Quit Smoking Program.
Dr. Angela Chan, MD, MPH, developmental-behavioral pediatrician, shares how the values of community health centers aided the creation of the Special Needs Initiative. “[The monthly support groups] started out with Dr. Sherry Huang, who realized caring for children with special needs was challenging and she wanted to do it better.” Being in a community health center helped foster the team’s connections with community partners and build closer relationships with the parents.
Working closely with the Health Center’s Special Needs Initiative, Kathy also saw how the accessibility of the services and Health Center staff opened doors for parents caring for children with special health care needs. “Sometimes parents will call in just to talk to me, and I will listen and do my best to connect them to the right person. I understand how frustrating it can be, especially when you’re caring for a child with special needs.” Over time, Dr. Chan and Dr. Huang noticed that the program has empowered parents to advocate for each other and their children’s rights.
As a Federally Qualified Health Center, the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center is proud to be part of the vast network of health centers advancing the care of its community. By putting its communities first, health centers have become a place for disease prevention, health innovation, and public advocacy.
Written by Bonnie Tse
Bonnie Tse is the communications coordinator at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food science from Hunter College.