By Nina Abubakari, MPH, MBA, JD, FACHE
Executive Director
Advantage Health Centers

Health care is changing in America, and not always for the better.

But every year, National Health Center Week (NHCW) provides a unique window into the national health care solution that’s working. For more than 50 years, community health centers have earned bipartisan support by proving that it is possible not only to have a federal program that works, but also delivers a return on public investment.

Community health centers like Advantage Health Centers are part of a national network that provides primary care to more than 27 million Americans. Health centers have saved countless lives, reduced and prevented chronic disease in the most challenging patient populations, and provided affordable options for care — regardless of insurance status. Health centers are on the front lines dealing with complex problems no one wants to think about, including treating and responding to the opioid epidemic, which is killing more and more Michiganders every year.

Health centers don’t just save lives — they save taxpayer dollars, too. Each year, we save the U.S. health care system 24 billion dollars by managing health conditions and reducing unnecessary visits to the hospital. Our whole-person approach to health care makes it easier to catch problems early, reduces unnecessary visits to the emergency department, and helps put healthier residents back to work. Health centers look beyond the charts, not only to prevent illness, but also to address the factors that actually cause poor health, such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental illness, lack of nutrition, and unemployment.

This year’s NHCW theme is “Celebrating Health Centers: Home of America’s Health Care Heroes,” but you’ll find that most of us don’t think of ourselves as heroes — just people who believe that affordable health care should be available to everyone who needs it. We’re excited to show everyone, including leaders at the local, state, and national level, that it’s entirely possible for people to agree on a program vital to our communities and the nation’s public health.

You can be a health care hero, too. Visit www.AHCDetroit.org to learn more about the services and programs we offer, and share the gift of good health with your friends and family. You can save the day by supporting community health centers: an excellent prescription for our nation’s health.