August 14, 2017 / The Financial, Tblisi,Republic of Georgia

Through community health centers (CHCs), doctors of optometry can play a part in increasing access to affordable, cost-effective and high-quality care in medically underserved communities. The role of CHCs is being recognized Aug. 13-19 in observance of National Health Center Week.

Community health centers (CHCs), part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, have been around for more than five decades. They were designed to offer medically underserved communities comprehensive, quality and affordable health services regardless of patients’ financial status.
Funded mainly by Medicaid and state and local grants, the centers have never been more vital. According to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), the number of patients receiving care in a CHC jumped 62 percent between 2005 and 2014. Patient visits climbed by 63 percent over the same period-to 90.4 million in 2014 at 8,801 health-care delivery sites, the NACHC reports.

Terri Gossard, O.D., has served on the executive team at the One-Sight Vision Center in Oyler School in Cincinnati, Ohio, for several years. The vision center is the country’s first self-supported, school-based program. Dr. Gossard also is chair of the AOA Multidisciplinary Practice Committee.
“The CHCs were created to be the safety net,” Dr. Gossard says. “Certainly access is part of why the centers exist. For the underserved, there are a lack of providers and a lack of health care facilities in their communities. There may be a general lack of understanding of the health care landscape.”
Dr. Chu, who places students at NECO in community health centers, adds, “And it’s not just a lack of health insurance. It’s their ability to travel. It’s the history of social barriers that exist.”

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