Mainline Health Systems this week is celebrating National Health Center Week, an annual event to raise awareness about the country’s community health centers.

Mainline is part of a nationwide network of locally operated health centers serving more than 28 million people nationwide. That number is projected to increase to 29 million in the coming year, according to estimates from the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Mainline Health Systems’ clinics are deeply rooted in the Southeast Arkansas communities they serve. Founded in 1978 by a group of agricultural leaders who wanted accessible healthcare for the people in their community, Mainline has grown from one small clinic with one physician to a system of seven medical clinics, three dental clinics, and 10 school-based health clinics across Southeast Arkansas with multiple healthcare professionals providing health care services regardless of their patients’ ability to pay.

The National Health Center Program started more than 50 years ago with two clinics, one in Mound Bayou, Mississippi and another in and Dorchester, Massachusetts. Today, there are approximately 1,400 health centers operating 12,000 sites across the country.

Each center is designed to provide “tailor-made” services to improve the health of the communities it serves. They provide comprehensive primary care and preventative care to patients of all ages.

The 2019 National Health Care Week theme, “Rooted in Communities” focuses on health centers’ position at the forefront of a nationwide shift in addressing environmental and social factors as an integral part of primary care, reaching beyond the walls of conventional medicine to address factors that may cause illness, such as lack of nutrition, mental illness, homelessness and substance use disorders.
Health care centers are addressing complex health issues such as the opiod crisis, mental health issues, and chronic diseases. These are health conditions that, if left untreated, end up in hospital emergency rooms for costly treatment.Nationwide, community health centers save the U.S. health care system $24 billion a year by managing health conditions and reducing unnecessary visits to the hospital.

National Health Center Week runs through Saturday ending with Children’s Health Day.

More than 8 million children in the United States get their primary health care from a community health center, according to estimates from the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Mainline often sees children who have never received health care. A method of reaching these children is through Mainline’s 10 school-based health clinics. Had it not been for the health care provider at one of those clinics, one child would not be alive today. During a medical examination, Mainline’s health care provider identified a life-threatening issue that needed immediate attention.