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How We Know Which Areas Need Health Center Services

Health centers provide care to patients in a service area. We approve the service area when reviewing a health center’s application for funds. 

We have created tools based on data to assess proposed service areas. These tools tell us which areas are needier in a fair and transparent way:

  • Methodology
  • Unmet Need Score
  • UNS Map Tool
  • Service Area Status
  • Service Use Benchmarks

How we understand need 

The Service Area Needs Assessment Methodology (SANAM) uses public data to calculate an Unmet Need Score (UNS) for every ZIP code. ZIP codes with a higher need score typically have a higher need for health center services.

We used the UNS in the fiscal year 2019 New Access Points funding opportunity. Afterwards, we reviewed how it worked and adjusted the measures and weights. The improved version is UNS 2.0, available in the UNS Map Tool

We expect to use UNS again in future funding opportunities. Learn more in the UNS and SAS Resource Guide (PDF - 790 KB).

How to assess need for approved service areas

Service Area Status (SAS) assesses need, but for already approved service areas. It describes the health, social, and economic status of people in a service area. Learn more in the UNS and SAS Resource Guide (PDF - 790 KB).

The SAS Workbook (XLSX - 15 MB) provides SAS scores for existing health center service areas. The SAS Zip Code Configurable Workbook (XLSX - 26 MB) provides scores for ZIP codes in a proposed service area.

How SANAM helps when you apply to become a health center

Before applying, you can use these tools to find areas with high need. The tools reduce burden for applicants like you since you don’t have to calculate need yourself.

The UNS Map Tool shows UNS scores for each ZIP code using color coding. It also has a table that summarizes the data.

How we know what services people still need

Health centers provide a variety of services. We use the Uniform Data System (UDS) to count how many patients receive each service. 

How we use data about patients using services they need

To understand the level of unmet need, we developed national benchmarks. The benchmarks help us understand where more help is still needed nationally. We reviewed literature and data analyses from these sources:

Service Category Health center patients using service Health center patients who could use service Difference between benchmark and actual Estimate of unmet patient need
Mental Health 9% 33% 24 percentage points 7.6 M
Substance Use Disorder 1% 17% 16 percentage points 4.7 M
Oral Health 20% 59% 39 percentage points 12.0 M
Vision 3% 37% 34 percentage points 10.3 M
Interpretation/ Translation 9%* 26% 17 percentage points 5.2 M

* Based on 2022 Health Center Patient Survey data.

How you can reach us

  • Use the BPHC Contact Form.
    Under Health Center Program, select Health Center Program (e.g., Unmet Need Score, Advancing Health Center Excellence Framework).
  • Call 877-464-4772 (select option 1), 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET, Monday – Friday (except federal holidays)
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