Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers Celebrates 50th Year of Health Center Movement Launched in Boston

Health centers across the US participate in National Health Center Week

BOSTON – August 5, 2015 – Community health centers across the nation and in Massachusetts kick off National Health Center Week, August 9 – 15, 2015. The community-led health care movement started in Massachusetts 50 years ago with the founding of the nation’s first community health center at Columbia Point in Dorchester. In Worcester, the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center serves over 28,000 patients a year and is the largest CHC in Central Massachusetts.

As part of the national celebration, the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and its 49 members across the Commonwealth will hold local health fairs and events, take to social media, and promote a new webpage.

The first community health center was founded in 1965 at Columbia Point in Dorchester, MA, and spurred a movement to increase the general health of individuals by addressing poverty-causing conditions. Over the last 50 years, innovations that were first introduced at community health centers – such as the development of preventative health services and programs for assisting patients with the management of chronic illnesses — have become standards of care across the American health system. There are now over 1,200 community health centers across the U.S. serving residents in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

“Since the launch of Columbia Point Health Center in 1965, community health centers have been focused on improving the overall health and well-being of their patients,” said James W. Hunt, Jr., president and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “Health centers pioneered some of the important quality and cost saving measures we talk about today. For example, our understanding of the importance of primary and preventive care, patient-centered medical homes and coordinated care – all originated with community health centers 50 years ago.”

To mark the 50th anniversary, the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers is hosting a variety of activities over the next four months. The League is partnering with the University of Massachusetts Boston to study the health center network’s impact over its history and identify the next big public health challenges that health centers would be uniquely poised to address. In November, the League will host a day-long 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.

In 1965, physician activists H. Jack Geiger and Count D. Gibson Jr. recognized social, political and economic challenges greatly impact the overall health of a community. Developing a new model to provide accessible, affordable and high-quality health care, Geiger and Gibson founded two community health centers, the first in the Columbia Point section of Dorchester, MA, and the second in Mound Bayou, MS.

Community health centers expanded nationwide after Senator Edward M. Kennedy visited Columbia Point Health Center in 1966. Impressed with the community-focused model of care, Kennedy introduced an amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act, directing $51 million in funding for the development of additional health centers across the country. Fifty years later, Massachusetts’ 49 community health centers make up the Commonwealth’s largest primary care network and serve more than 889,000 patients, or one in eight state residents.

For more information on the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers visit Follow the League on Facebook and on Twitter, @MassLeague. National Health Center Week is supported by the National Association of Community Health Centers.