Community Health Centers Offer a Successful Approach to Primary Care


Community Health Centers like Mendocino Community Health Clinic (MCHC) have become a powerhouse in primary care because they provide a quality and cost-effective model for health care delivery. A recent study  by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California-San Francisco concluded that health centers demonstrated equal or better quality performance than private practices on ambulatory quality measures, despite serving patients with more chronic disease and socio-economic challenges.

This is the case at MCHC, where patients receive quality and affordable primary and preventive care services under one roof that include medical, dental, behavioral health and women’s health. 

            “At MCHC our patients not only receive quality care on a regular basis but they are treated as individuals, with dignity and respect,” said Chief Executive Officer Lin Hunter. "This is what health care should be about and what our patients come back for time and time again. We are their provider of choice because they like the care they get here and, because we are part of the community, we understand our patients and what they need."

Community Health Centers have been in existence for over 45 years and have compiled a significant record of success. Locally, according to a Mendocino County Board of Supervisors’ resolution approved last month recognizing Aug. 5-11 as National Health Center Week, in 2011 more than half of Mendocino County residents “sought and received high-quality, cost-effective primary health services" at the five community health clinics: Mendocino Community Health Clinic, Anderson Valley Health Center, Long Valley Health Center, Mendocino Coast Clinics, and Redwood Coast Medical Services. Mendocino Community Health Clinic totaled more than 128,000 patient encounters last year. That’s an average of more than 2,400 patient encounters a week, or approximately 500 patient encounters a day.

New fact sheets from the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) provide a more comprehensive glimpse behind the health center record of:

  • Reducing income and ethnic health disparities nationwide, even in the poorest and most challenged communities
  • Producing $24 billion in annual health system savings
  • Reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and unnecessary visits to the ER
  • Providing a system of preventive medicine that patients use regularly, thereby improving health outcomes.

             The successful model of care that health centers provide is tied with how they are directed by local communities. Each health center has patients represented on their governing boards to ensure accountability to the community, funding sources and the American taxpayer. Health centers also go beyond the reach of traditional medicine by addressing the social determinants that can cause poor health – meaning factors such as poverty, nutrition, inadequate housing, or lack of education. 

            To make access to primary care easier, health centers also offer services that remove common, persistent barriers to health care, such as transportation, translation, insurance enrollment, case management, and health education. Health centers also empower their patients to be active participants in improving their health and in preventing or managing their chronic conditions through better nutrition, counseling or patient education. As a result, health center patients are more likely to comply with their providers’ guidance than other patients and have a better chance for improved health.  With better health and access to regular care at a health center, people can more easily avoid costly visits to the hospital. 

The NACHC fact sheets were issued as part of National Health Center Week, a weeklong campaign (August 5-11) to raise awareness about the mission and accomplishments of America’s Health Centers as local solutions.  To view the fact sheets please visit this link.

To learn more about the mission and accomplishments of Community Health Centers visit To learn more about Mendocino Community Health Clinic, visit

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