Community Health Centers are Advocates and Leaders for Black Health Equity


Author: Lindsey Schnell

Black History Month is a tribute to the perseverance, leadership, and history of Black America, including the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The Community Health Center Movement’s roots are intertwined with the Civil Rights movement; in 1964 during the Freedom Summer, hundreds of activists went to Mississippi to advocate for Black health and equity which spurred the creation of Neighborhood Health Centers that later became Federally Health Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). During the month of February, FQHCs take time to recognize the intersection of this history through acknowledgements, events, and by continuing to make strides in health equity.

Some health centers, such as Care Resource in Florida, focus on HIV prevention as, due to social drivers of health and structural racism, African Americans disproportionally accounted for 42% of the new 37,832 HIV diagnoses in 2018 [1], by promoting testing, treatment, and community involvement. Other centers, such as Howard Brown Health in Illinois, focus on advocacy by sharing the history of Black activists and their impact on improving health equity, such as the Black Panther Party opening 13 free health clinics across the country in response to the underfunded public hospitals in minority neighborhoods [2]. Additionally, HealthFirst in Massachusetts hosts a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee that created a calendar to highlight events [3], including Black History Month. Many health centers have also created programs to uplift Black health, such as Crecent Community Health Center in Iowa that hosts targeted education classes [4]. Moreover, community health centers such as Unity Health in Washington, D.C. continue to provide COVID vaccines and support to Black communities as 49 percent of Black D.C. residents live in medically underserved areas [5].

Through a variety of strategies, services, and community collaborations, community health centers are always at the forefront of equitable care and advocacy for patients. There are many opportunities to support health centers and their health equity missions, such as being a health center advocate and contacting state and federal representatives (see our advocacy team’s helpful guide here), and sharing a local health center’s story. In 2022, the federal government recognized the importance of Community Health Centers through granting funding to advance health equity through better data collection and reporting. President Biden also issued a proclamation on National Health Center Week to recognize the vital role health centers play in safeguarding the well-being of Americans and honor the heroic staff who keep these facilities running. Community health centers are vital to improving access to primary care as well as health outcomes for Black Americans and continue to give back and support this community in February and beyond.


[1] Frank Irias. Care Resource Observes Black History Month. Care Resource. 2020.

[2] Erik Roldan. Federally Qualified Health Centers and the Legacy of the Black Panther Party. Howard Brown Health. 10 Feb 2021.

[3] HealthFirst’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. HealthFirst. 2023.

[4] Population Health Black and African American. Crecent Community Health Center.

[5] Brice-Saddler, M., Portnoy, J., Harden, J. D., & Chen, J. K. (2024, January 3). Half of black D.C. residents lack easy access to health care, analysis shows. The Washington Post.