Federally qualified health centers: Are they effective?
In 1964, the Office of Economic Opportunity established federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), which were initially called neighborhood health centers, as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” The legislative goals for neighborhood health centers were to:
- Provide comprehensive, high-quality health services.
- Be accessible to low-income residents.
- Be responsive to patient needs.
- Offer employment, education and social assistance.
These goals, with the exception of providing employment assistance, continue today and have expanded to include additional services such as oral health, mental health, and pharmaceutical services.
The number of FQHCs has grown over the past 40 years. In 1965, there were two FQHCs in the country; today there are more than 1,200 FQHCs with more than 8,500 service sites. The growth has largely resulted from a view that FQHCs can achieve the original goals as well as help curb health care costs by reducing emergency department visits and hospitalizations.
What does the evidence say about the impact FQHCs have had on the legislative goals listed above? A companion piece to this summary provides a comprehensive overview of FQHCs.