National Health Center Week wrapped up Saturday, an observance marked locally by Heart of Kansas Family Health. This is an annual celebration to raise awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s health centers over the past five decades, said Brett Middleton, HKFH chief executive officer.
“Each year we celebrate the work and services health centers provide to special populations within our community during the week,” Middleton said. Heart of Kansas threw open the doors Friday and invited the public to see what they offer.
“Everybody was welcomed,” Middleton said. “We just wanted to show them around.”
Sponsored by the National Association of Community Health Centers and the Health Center Advocacy Network, this year’s theme was “Rooted in Communities.” There were different focus days throughout the week, featuring such things as agriculture worker health, health for the homeless and patient appreciation.
Friday was Staff Appreciation Day and Saturday was Child’s Health Day. In addition to the public events at Heart of Kansas Friday, other in-house celebrations took place throughout the week.
Elsewhere, types of events included such things as health fairs, visits by members of Congress and state officials to local health centers, press conferences, back-to-school drives, community breakfasts, patient appreciation events and free health tests.
Heart of Kansas worked with the Barton County Health Department, Middleton said. They offered meningococcal vaccines required for school children, colon cancer screenings and other vaccinations to center patients and non-patients alike.
Lunch was also served.
According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, the first centers were established in the U.S. more than 50 years ago by residents and health-care providers. The movement brought doctors and health care into medically underserved areas all across the country.
Today, there are 1,400 health center organizations across the country operating 11,000 service locations. Of these, 18 organizations (including Heart of Kansas) operate 66 delivery sites.
All Community Health Centers provide primary care services and preventive care. Many health centers, such as Heart of Kansas, also offer vision and dental services, as well as mental health counseling.
In 2018, health centers served over 28 million patients nationwide, mostly poor or uninsured, the NACHC reported. In 2017, 207,988 patients were served in Kansas.
The first centers were established over 50 years ago by residents and health care providers. They wanted to assure quality health care for all.
“We are the only center of our kind in the area,” Middleton said. It also operates service delivery sites in Larned and Stafford.
Centers are independent, non-profit, non-governmental health care organizations. They are supported in part by federal grants and so required to meet requirements, such as: Serving everyone, regardless of ability to pay; serve an area population deemed medically under-served; governed by a board that includes mostly center patients; and use a sliding fee scale based on income and family size.
“National Health Center gives Health Centers a chance to bring light to the health needs in our communities and the shared stake in community health,” said Middleton “It allows us to show not only what we do but how our unique model of care is offering solutions to the nation’s health care crisis.”
The week has become a tool to rally public support for the Health Centers program, he said.
Heart of Kansas is located at 1905 19th St. in Great Bend and it can be reached at 620-792-5700.