Centers for Community Health

The importance of community health centers in the U.S.

CVS Health’s Eileen Howard Boone, Senior Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy, and President of the CVS Health Foundation, and Malvise Scott, Senior Vice President for Partnerships and Resource Development, National Association of Community Health Centers, discuss community health centers – what they mean to Americans and how they can help manage chronic disease.

If 75 percent of your income was spent on funding a medical condition that could have been prevented in the first place, that would get your attention, right?

Currently as a nation, 75 percent of our health care dollars are allocated to the treatment of chronic diseases. That’s more than $1 trillion a year spent on treating preventable, chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. And the impact of chronic diseases extends beyond these monetary implications: more than half of Americans suffer from one or more chronic disease every year, making them the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.

Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four modifiable health risk behaviors—lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption—are responsible for much of the illness, suffering and early death related to chronic diseases. Considering that seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases, we commissioned a survey to get a better understanding of why these preventable illnesses continue to compromise America’s health and wallet.

Chronic Diseases Often Misunderstood

Our “Chronic Disease Awareness Survey” not only revealed the public’s misconception and understanding of chronic disease, it found that the majority of respondents admitted they aren’t doing as much as they can to stay healthy. With these findings, it’s no surprise why chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S.

For instance, nearly 40 percent of people think that what they eat has little to do with whether they get a chronic disease. And nearly 65 percent of people are aware they should exercise regularly, but they don’t. The increased consumption of unhealthy foods compounded by the effects of physical inactivity increases the risk of many severe and chronic health conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and liver and gallbladder disease.

Chronic Disease Awareness Survey results

Chronic diseases affect everyone and the number of people living with a chronic disease is expected to increase over the next decade. The results from the “Chronic Disease Awareness Survey” show that many of us do not know the contributors of the most common chronic diseases, in fact, nearly 30 percent of respondents admit they think there’s little they can do to prevent most chronic diseases.

Community Health Centers Can Help

The first steps toward preventing and treating chronic diseases are education and management. This is where community health centers nationwide play a critical role in improving the quality of life for people with chronic diseases. Today, more than 9,000 community health centers throughout the country are providing care for more than 22 million Americans by increasing access to health care services and educational resources. As local, community-based health care systems in rural and urban neighborhoods, community health centers are able to provide direct health services that are both affordable and accessible. While changes in our health care system will qualify millions more for health coverage, it's still a challenge for many to find quality care that could help manage – even prevent – many chronic diseases.

The community health center model has proven to efficiently and successfully provide much-needed services to targeted populations and by nature is able to address important health care issues like chronic disease care. And while the future of these health centers over the next few years is unclear, we must remember the central role they play in our nation’s response to crucial health care needs. Through educational resources and affordable health care services, community health centers provide solutions, and without them, chronic diseases will continue to impact the lives of millions of people nationwide and cost our health care system trillions of dollars every year.

Support is crucial

That’s why it’s more important than ever to support community health centers nationwide. The Campaign for America’s Health Centers has been created to support these non-profit providers of high-quality, affordable primary and preventive care who are serving low income and medically underserved communities throughout the country. 

To learn more about The Campaign for America’s Health Centers and how you can help create better health outcomes in communities nationwide, visit

In 2012, CVS Health and its foundation, the CVS Health Foundation, began a $3 million multi-year partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). Together, we hope to increase access to quality health care and produce better health outcomes while reducing costs for patients and health care systems. Through this partnership, funding will support affordable community-based health care models that are producing innovative chronic disease management programming. The programs will use a variety of methods to help people manage their chronic disease and improve health outcomes – including the use of tele-medicine, nurse practitioners to monitor at-risk patients and wellness circles that bring people together who are living with and working to manage the same chronic disease.