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Health centers get top marks for preventive care
By Marilynn Larkin
Community health centers—nonprofits in medically underserved areas that provide care to anyone regardless of income or insurance status—are a lifeline for the more than 16 million patients who rely on them. And when it comes to providing preventive care, they outperform even private care providers, according to a policy brief recently published by George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services.
The brief, based on an analysis of national data, reports that underserved patients are more likely to obtain preventive tests and screenings in community health centers than in private practice settings such as doctors’ offices and outpatient clinics. Among uninsured women, for example, the rate of Pap smears was 22 percent higher in community health centers; breast exams, 17 percent higher; mammography, 16 percent higher; and cholesterol and blood pressure screenings, 10 and 8 percent higher, respectively.
By helping prevent disease or catching it in its early stages, community health centers may also lower health care costs for their poor and minority patients.