Health Center Program: Impact and Growth

For 55 years, health centers have delivered affordable, accessible, quality, and value-based primary health care to millions of people regardless of their ability to pay. Not only are health centers serving 1 in 11 people across the country, the Health Center Program is leading the nation in driving quality improvement and reducing health care costs for America’s taxpayers. Because health centers provide high quality primary care services across the country, the health center network is also called upon to support public health priorities such as the opioid crisis, the White House Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America initiative, and the response to COVID-19.

Nearly 30 million people, that is 1 in 11 in the U.S., rely on a HRSA-funded health center for care, including : 1 in 8 children, 1 in 5 rural residents, 1 in 3 living in poverty, 1 in 4 uninsured, more than 398K veterans, more than 885K served at school-based health centers, more than 1M agricultural workers, more than 1.4 homeless

Providing Value-Based Care to Millions Across the Nation

HRSA’s investments have advanced the nation’s health by ensuring more patients and communities each year have access to high quality, comprehensive primary care. Today, HRSA funds nearly 1,400 health centers operating almost 13,000 service delivery sites in every U.S. state, U.S. territory, and the District of Columbia. In 2019, there were more than 252,000 full-time health center providers and staff serving nearly 30 million patients. Health centers have more than tripled the number of patients served since 2000.

Health Center Patients in Millions bar chart. 2000 – 9.6 million, 2009 – 18.8 million,2019 – 29.8 million, 211% increase from 2000 to 2019

Driving Quality Improvement

HRSA’s quality improvement investments advance a model of coordinated, comprehensive, and patient-centered care, integrating medical, dental, behavioral health, substance use disorder, and patient services.

These investments have positioned 1,079 health centers (78 percent) to achieve Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition. The PCMH model of care enables health centers to sustain strong patient outcomes at lower costs despite treating a sicker and poorer population in comparison with other health care settings.

This is most evident in patient outcomes:

  • 68 percent of health center patients with diabetes controlled their blood sugar levels (HbA1c ≤ 9 percent), exceeding the national average of 59 percent.1
  • 65 percent of health center patients with hypertension controlled their blood pressure, exceeding the national average of 59 percent.2

In addition to better patient outcomes, the health center model of care is associated with reductions in the use of costly care options, such as emergency departments and hospitals.3 Health center patients also had 24 percent lower spending as compared to non-health center patients across all services provided.4

Addressing Emergent Public Health Needs

HRSA-funded health centers are well-positioned to meet the nation’s emerging health priorities.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, health centers have played a key role in providing testing and care for those affected by the virus. HRSA has awarded billions of dollars in new funding to support health centers and Health Center Program look-alikes in the detection, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19. This funding has enabled health centers to maintain or increase their staffing levels, conduct training, purchase personal protective equipment, and administer millions of tests for both existing and new patients.

Health centers are also the first line of care in combatting the nation’s opioid crisis. In 2019, health centers screened and identified nearly 1.4 million people for substance use disorder and ultimately provided medication-assisted treatment to nearly 143,000 patients nationwide, an increase of 121% since 2017. In 2019, 96 percent of health centers provided mental health counseling and treatment and 76 percent of health centers provided substance use disorder services.

HRSA-funded health centers are an essential component in the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, serving as a key point of entry for detection and diagnosis of people living with HIV. In 2019, health centers provided over 2.7 million HIV tests to more than 2.2 million patients and treated 1 in 5 patients diagnosed with HIV nationally.


National Committee for Quality Assurance, The State of Health Care Quality. Diabetes Care (2018)

National Committee for Quality Assurance, The State of Health Care Quality. Controlling for High Blood Pressure (2018)

Laiteerapong, Neda et al. “Health Care Utilization and Receipt of Preventive Care for Patients Seen at Federally Funded Health Centers Compared to Other Sites of Primary Care.” Health Services Research 49.5 (2014): 1498-1518.

Nocon, Robert S. et al. “Health Care Use and Spending for Medicaid Enrollees in Federally Qualified Health Centers Versus Other Primary Care Settings.” American Journal of Public Health 106.11 (Nov 2016): 1981-1989.

Date Last Reviewed:  December 2020