National Health Center Week is an annual celebration with the goal of raising awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s health centers. Community health centers reach almost 27 million patients annually. This year, Howard Brown served nearly 35,000 patients in our community healthcare setting. We’re joining health centers across the country in celebrating the heroes who make community-based healthcare a reality.

For almost 50 years, community health centers have delivered comprehensive, high‐quality preventive and primary healthcare to patients regardless of their ability to pay.  Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) trace their history back to the Neighborhood Health Centers that emerged from the Lyndon Johnson administration’s War on Poverty in 1965. Neighborhood Health Centers were created to provide health and social services in poor and underserved communities.

The qualifications for FQHCs both reflect the program’s origins in the 1960s and anticipate the principles of reform embodied in 2010 Affordable Care Act. FQHCs, like Howard Brown, provide healthcare in medically underserved areas (MUA), or to medically underserved populations (MUP). They provide comprehensive, primary healthcare services to all residents in the service area, regardless of their ability to pay.

In Howard Brown’s case, we serve the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV. At Howard Brown, we continue to address both the systemic and individual barriers to healthcare. These services include primary care, walk-in clinics, case management for at-risk patients, and GED and resume assistance through the Broadway Youth Center. Our dental clinic at 63rd Street, is a prime example of the ways Howard accommodates the populations we serve.

FQHCs primary goals are community participation, empowerment, and development. Howard Brown is always seeking community feedback, and our Community Advisory Board is directly involved in formulating our strategic plan.

Most FQHCs have a well-defined area or population that they serve which facilitates the use of epidemiologic, data-driven care. This combination of primary care and public health allows effective responses to community needs. Howard Brown serves the LGBTQ community of Chicago and the areas surrounding our clinics. Howard Brown is proud to serve Chicago’s communities from Rogers Park on the far north side to Englewood on the south side.

Because FQHCs go beyond the traditional model, they require new combinations of clinical and public health personnel, such as the incorporation of behavioral health services and support groups and workshops through social services.

Howard Brown works with its providers to deliver holistic healthcare, free of stigma and judgment. As an FQHC, Howard Brown is proud to advocate and work towards the reduction of disparities in the healthcare and health status of racial, ethnic, sexual, and other minorities.