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February 17, 2010; Kaiser Health News | As those that follow our newswire know, we have been following the flow of stimulus funds to nonprofits in general and this includes community health centers which have received a few rounds of funding in part to prepare for additional unemployed and therefore uninsured patients and in part to try to ready them to take an even more prominent role in primary care. This article from Kaiser Health News points us to a research paper [PDF] just released by the George Washington University Department of Health Policy along with the RCHN Community Health Foundation and the United Health Foundation. The paper does a fine job of looking at the variety of effects that stimulus funds have had on Community health Centers, their patients and the economic vitality of the communities they serve. Here is a rather extended excerpt from that report which we recommend to you:

  • More than 1,100 health centers throughout the United States have received ARRA funding to date. These centers are projected to serve 21 million persons in 2011, including nearly three million new patients as a direct result of ARRA funding. By targeting health centers, ARRA effectively provides needed health resources to populations at higher risk of poor health.
  • Community health centers receiving ARRA funding tend to be located in areas with higher rates of unemployment and recent job losses. The average unemployment rate among counties with health center ARRA grantees was 9.6 percent compared to an average rate of 9.0 percent in all other counties; the average unemployment rate grew by 4.4 percent in counties with health centers compared to 4.0 percent in all other counties.
  • The $1.85 billion invested to date in health centers under ARRA translates into $3.2 billion in new economic activity in these communities, suggesting that health centers are able to rapidly transform an infusion of funding into new services and expanded jobs.

These findings indicate that ARRA has achieved its goal of directing Resources into those communities that tend to bear the heaviest burden of an economic downturn, and have low community incomes, a disproportionate percentage of low-wage workers, inadequate primary care access, and elevated health risks. However, the challenge lies in sustaining this expansion and assuring that the ability of health centers to respond to community needs is maintained even as overall economic circumstances begin to improve.

Impressive! This is the kind of research we would love to see funded more often in this sector. Timely and meaningful data delivered in a way that can have a lot of impact.—Ruth McCambridge

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