“Talk HIV. Test HIV. Treat HIV”

banner2This week is National HIV Testing Week (#NHTWUS) and across the country organizations like Community Health Centers are starting that all important conversation with patients and community members about knowing their HIV status. Coordinated by the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Services (UCHAPS), the observance of NHTW aims to reduce late diagnosis by ensuring more people become aware of their current HIV status. By setting aside this week to recognize the importance of HIV testing, organizations hope to encourage communities at higher risk to not only get tested, but also seek regular and ongoing care if they have positive diagnoses.

According to UCHAPS “at least one in every five people living with HIV in the United States is unaware that they are HIV positive.” Talking about and testing for HIV can reduce the likelihood of transmission to others and those who are diagnosed early are more likely to respond well to treatment, allowing them to live longer, healthier lives.

Community Health Centers are a resource people can turn to—regardless of ability to pay—to get tested. In fact, 79 percent of Health Centers provide HIV testing and counseling. In 2012 (the most recent data available) health centers provided almost a million HIV tests to over a million patients.

badge-national-hiv-testing-dayNational HIV Testing Week ends on June 27th with National HIV Testing Day (#NHTD). To find resources to promote HIV awareness visit or to find a testing site visit:

World View: How the U.S. Compares in HealthCare

Davis_Mirror_2014_ES1_for_webThe U.S. healthcare system may be the most expensive in the world, but we’re not getting what we pay for in terms of quality.  A report by the Commonwealth Fund   says it performed worse than other industrialized nations when it came to measures of access, patient safety, coordination, efficiency and equity.  Among the nations studied were Australia, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, and New Zealand.   The report looked at surveys of patients and primary care physicians from 2007-2009 and found that one notable way the U.S. differs from other countries is the absence of universal health insurance coverage.  The report also said other nations ensure the accessibility of care not just through universal insurance, but also with better ties between patients and the physician practices that serve as their long-term medical homes.  While the data used for the Commonwealth study is prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (signed into law in 2010 and implemented in 2014), it should offer a baseline and some insight into the improvement of affordability of insurance and access to care.

Other key findings:

  • Compared with the other 10 countries, the U.S. fares best on provision and receipt of preventive and patient-centered care.
  • Without universal coverage—people in the U.S. go without needed health care because of cost more often than people do in the other countries. Americans were the most likely to say they had access problems related to cost. Patients in the U.S. have rapid access to specialized health care services; however, they are less likely to report rapid access to primary care than people in leading countries in the study.

  •  Americans with below-average incomes were much more likely than their counterparts in other countries to report not visiting a physician when sick; not getting a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up care; or not filling a prescription or skipping doses when needed because of costs.

Our two cents: the expansion of Community Health Centers will ensure that more people in need will have access to primary care. We also know that health centers are more likely to see new uninsured patients than other providers, and their patients are more likely to have a usual source of care than the uninsured or privately insured.  Also, uninsured health center patients are half as likely as other uninsured to delay care because of cost, go without needed care, or be unable to refill a prescription [NACHC Fact Sheet].

This Week is National Men’s Health Week

June is Men's Health Month

June is Men’s Health Month

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, Men’s Health Week (June 9-15) is the perfect time to remind the men around you of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Getting an adequate amount of exercise and eating properly are fundamental habits that foster overall health, but it is just as important for men to understand the value of preventive screenings aimed at controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Frequenting the gym and biking to and from work can cause heads to turn at the beach, but if preventive measures aren’t taken to secure one’s overall health then all your hard work on the bench press and elliptical will be done in vain.

The Affordable Care Act has made it easier to acquire the preventive services that are essential to overall health by covering recommended preventive services at no out-of-pocket charge. This means that the man in your life has no excuse to add preventive measures to his healthy lifestyle choices.

For men who routinely practice healthy living habits, use this week as reminder that your efforts are not futile. And for men who do not pay the necessary attention to their overall health, National Men’s Health Week is a great time to head to your local supermarket and buy some kale, make the trek to your local YMCA and partake in some wind sprints, and visit your local Community Health Center and request an immediate blood test. However, if the aforementioned measures sound a bit extreme there’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps.

Go get healthy and have a happy Father’s Day.

Let’s Not Reverse Course on Access to Care

Dr  Gary WiltzNACHC’s Board Chair, Gary Wiltz, MD, published the following commentary today in Modern Healthcare magazine.  Dr. Wiltz is the President and CEO of Teche Action Clinic in Franklin, LA.

As a young doctor, my first job was serving in one of the poorest and most rural parishes in Louisiana. I had a three-year commitment to serve with the National Health Service Corps, which, in return, paid for my medical education. Thirty-two years later, I’m still there, leading the same Community Health Center where I started. I chose to stay because access to care—a key issue in the ongoing national discussion—is a struggle for people in my community.

Yet, progress made so far to improve access to care in the nation’s fragile and rural communities is now threatened.

Some 62 million Americans lack access to primary care because of a variety of factors that include geography, income and a shortage of available doctors, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers. People from all walks of life are affected. Nearly half (42%) are low-income and 28% live in rural areas. Surprisingly, the vast majority do have health insurance.

People need both insurance and access to care. In my corner of Louisiana, we are open six days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. because our patients, who are low-income and often chronically ill, need care before and after working hours. By making access more convenient, we not only improve our residents’ well-being, but reduce unnecessary visits to hospital ERs by more than 40%.

The Affordable Care Act provided resources to double the size of Community Health Centers like mine. This critical funding is scheduled to expire after 2015. Without a fix from Congress, the centers face a 70% reduction in grant funding. The impact would be disastrous. Our clinic alone would be forced to shelve plans to open two needed clinic sites, close some sites and lay off staff. Over 3,000 patients would have to find care elsewhere, much farther away. Programs focused on growing the supply of primary-care providers also would be hurt.

Let’s not reverse course. Community Health Centers have delivered high returns on the investment for the past 50 years—improved access, cost savings and more jobs. This is a resource our nation cannot afford to squander.

Health Centers are the Focus at a Recent Briefing on Capitol Hill

photo 5Community Health Centers were the focus of a recent Capitol Hill briefing launched by the Alliance for Health Reform. The topic was the challenges and opportunities of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The briefing “Health Centers at the Launch of the Coverage Expansion” included panelists: Michelle Proser, NACHC ‘s Research Director;  Jordan Valley Health Center (Springfield, MO) President Brooks Miller; Heart City Health Center (Elkhart, IN) CEO Vernita Todd and Leighton Ku, Director of the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University.

The event revealed new findings from the Commonwealth Fund’s 2013 Survey of FQHCs. Some highlights include:

  • Health centers anticipated a shortage of workforce to meet the needs of the expected influx of newly covered patients. This included a shortage of physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. However, the Commonwealth Fund report noted that this is not a new concern for health centers and a recent report by NACHC showed 62 million people have little or no access to primary care.
  • Health centers have a hard time finding bilingual providers and those in rural areas have a harder time recruiting bilingual staff over those in urban settings.
  • Health centers have, and continue to prepare for, health system changes and the influx of new patients, including integrating new behavioral health, hiring new clinical staff and increasing IT capacity. 93 percent of health centers surveyed now have an EHR system, an increase of 133 percent from 2009.

The panelists all underscored the critical need for access to care.

“Insurance coverage is not enough to guarantee access to care. There will always be uninsured patients,” said  Michelle Proser.

If you missed the briefing you can watch it here.