Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Potential of Prevention: Health Care Reform Gives Boost to Community Health Centers and Also Cancer Prevention

The implications of health care reform are becoming clearer and point to added benefits for cancer prevention. A paper in last week’s New England Journal of Medicine (link) presented a number of changes that flow from health care reform. In particular, emphasis will be placed on the role of Community Health Centers, which were launched in 1965 by President Johnson under the Office of Economic Opportunity with a main goal of reducing health disparities. The nationwide network of centers now operates at approximately 8000 sites and is set to expand under reform, with an expected increase of some 15,000 additional primary care providers that will enable the centers to reach 20 million extra patients. This is very positive.

Community health centers provide a high-quality, patient-centered medical home – a place where patients have a history and to which they are likely to return for coordinated care. Building on research by Dr. Allen Dietrich of Dartmouth College, the single medical home can efficiently provide preventive services to patients, including cancer screening, in a timely manner.

Of course, to gain the most from the expanding health care coverage that will follow from health care reform, we’ll still need improved approaches to integrating prevention services more broadly, but expanding the community health center system is a key place to start.

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