It may be hard to imagine a time when small community clinics didn’t exist, but medical care used to be relegated to large medical facilities in big cities. Those who lived in rural areas suffered from barriers to quality healthcare, such as lack of transportation or childcare, or an inability to miss a day of work to attend appointments.
Community clinics evolved following President Johnson’s War on Poverty, which was designed to improve living conditions for lower-income citizens. Dr. H. Jack Geiger brought home the community-based healthcare model he witnessed while studying in South Africa, impressed by the improved outcomes these small health centers offered even the poorest citizens.
Together with Dr. John Hatch, who worked with the migrant populations of Massachusetts and Mississippi, they began to create the model for the community health centers that we know today. Like those of us who have come after them, Dr. Geiger and Dr. Hatch recognized the importance the community plays in creating a healthy population and the positive impact on health and well-being that occurs when a health center is owned, operated, and directed by people from the communities in which they serve.
Since then, small, integrated health centers have sprung up all around the country, today serving more than 30 million patients. Blue Ridge Health operates in clinics and school-based health centers, in outreach and in behavioral health centers across Western North Carolina, following this very model.
Blue Ridge Health: We’re not just a health center. We’re a community health center.