Even as growing populations of Americans now have health insurance coverage, a serious health care problem persists nationwide. We are reminded that access to primary and preventive care is a basic necessity and can have big impacts on individual and community health.

A key part of the solution lies in our nation’s Community Health Centers (CHC), which have provided quality, affordable care for the past five decades. CHCs like Family HealthCare Network are a proven model that have fulfilled a distinctive and vital role in the health care system. This year, we celebrate 39 years of increased access, cost-savings, and job creation in the communities we serve.

Each August, at CHCs across the country, we recognize the outstanding work being done by these Federally Qualified Health Centers with the observance of National Health Center Week. National Health Center Week raises awareness about the mission and impact of CHCs as local solutions for affordable, accessible, and comprehensive health care.

What began as a modest demonstration program in the mid-1960s has evolved 50 years later into the largest and most successful primary care system in the country. Since their inception, CHCs have demonstrated impressive results in reducing infant mortality, improving immunization rates, and managing chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Today, CHCs serve more than 23 million Americans in more than 9,200 communities across the country.

Locally, Family HealthCare Network, a Federally Qualified Health Center, reaches the community through 18 different locations and serves as the health home to 1-in-3 patients in Tulare and Kings Counties. With a “Patient-Centered Medical Home” approach, Family HealthCare Network offers traditional medical services including family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, and dental services, but also provides patients with behavioral health services, a full-service pharmacy and a range of community health programs including health education, literacy, and nutrition programs.

In July, Family HealthCare Network’s approach to care received recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), reaffirming our health centers’ status as a level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home. The highest level granted by the NCQA, this recognition ultimately demonstrates our patients not only receive the care they need all under one roof, but also that they are treated as individuals, with dignity and respect and as partners in their care.

This all-encompassing approach to health care addresses patients’ medical needs while also fostering healthier local communities. The impact of Family HealthCare Network’s patient centered medical home model in the local community is evident in the more than 536,000 patient encounters our centers had in 2014.

This model of care — and what is needed to meet the need for care in our community — would not be possible without the support of our board, staff, community, and fellow community health centers. Thank you for joining us in recognizing National Health Center Week and the incredible impact community health centers have on creating healthier communities.

National Health Center Week is recognized from Aug. 9-15, 2015. To learn more about the mission and accomplishments of Community Health Centers please visit the web site of the National Association of Community Health Centers at www.nachc.org.

Kerry Hydash is president and CEO for Family HealthCare Network.

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