Good Policies for a Great America: Healthcare Centers

Updated: August 22, 2016

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By Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), 2008

Health centers are a key element of community infrastructure, especially in low-income communities. They ensure vibrancy of communities across the country by investing in human capital, generating economic activity, and spurring secondary spending.

In this publication from the Opportunity Finance Network, the national association for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Ronda Kotelchuck explains why primary and preventive healthcare are vital ingredients for ensuring individual social and economic opportunity. It is essential if adults are to participate in the workforce and children are to succeed in school. In its absence, illnesses that could be prevented or managed can become life threatening, leading to lost time and productivity, family financial devastation, dependence, disability, and even premature death. Lack of a regular source of primary care forces low-income populations to rely on the most expensive elements of the healthcare system: emergency rooms and inpatient hospital care. The National Association of Community Health Centers estimates, for example, that $18 billion a year is wasted on avoidable emergency room visits.

Further, the development of health centers improves real property, generates construction jobs, and produces permanent community assets. It also creates new, varied, stable, and well-paying employment opportunities. Health centers hire locally because they value those with knowledge of the community, the culture, and the language of area residents. The healthcare industry offers higher wages than other areas of the private sector, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Moreover, healthcare provides well-defined career ladders, including jobs for lower-skilled clerical, security, and maintenance workers and people entering the field with little or no specialized education or training.