Community Health Centers’ Role in Delivering Care to the Nation’s Underserved Populations During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Findings in the brief are based on focus groups conducted with 16 Primary Care Association (PCAs) representing 19 states and one U.S. territory in late September and early October 2020. A later focus group and interviews focused on COVID-19 vaccine distribution were conducted in November and December 2020. Participating PCA respondents were also asked to complete a supplemental data request. Fourteen PCAs responded to the supplemental data request, with one regional PCA providing a separate response for each of two member states, for a total of 15 survey responses. Invitations to focus groups and the supplemental data request were sent to PCA directors and were either completed by the director or their designee.

We selected PCAs for interviews based on a mix of characteristics corresponding to the health centers they represent, including region of the United States, urban vs. rural areas, number of health center organizations in a state, and whether the states were considered hotspots for the coronavirus in early 2020. Together, the 16 PCAs represent over 750 health centers (54 percent of all federally-funded health centers in operation during 2019) across 19 states and one U.S. territory. Community health centers in these states account for 63 percent of all health center patients served in 2019, the latest year that these data are available.

Primary Care Associations are state and regional non-profit organizations that support health centers to meet the key goals of the Health Center Program. Some of the key tasks performed by PCAs include: providing training and technical assistance to health centers, creating economies of scale for purchasing power, monitoring policy and regulatory changes affecting health centers, assisting health centers to adapt to changing health care needs for patients, and facilitating collaboration with other health centers and key government agencies.

Key Findings Appendix

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