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Opinion: Work of Nonprofit Community Health Centers Sets Example for Medical Profession


Doctor and patient at Neighborhood Healthcare
A doctor and patient at Neighborhood Healthcare, a network of nonprofit clinics in San Diego and Riverside counties.

National Health Center Week officially kicked off on Sunday and allows organizations like mine — Neighborhood Healthcare in San Diego and Riverside counties — to celebrate the work of health clinics that serve neighborhoods in need.

Nonprofit community health centers like mine provide quality, compassionate care to everyone, regardless of circumstance. They help families and individuals live happy and healthy lives. Their work serves as examples that others in this profession should emulate.

A proper celebration of this work and mission starts with the people. I could write an entire book on how our more than 900 dedicated team members go above and beyond. They make me so proud to work alongside them every day!

This past year especially tested them all, and they rose to the challenges in countless situations. Most notably, Neighborhood Healthcare’s practitioners administered more than 110,000 COVID-19 and flu vaccines, with more than 10% of them to children and teens.

Our team also conducted more than 40,000 COVID-19 tests in dozens of public events at no cost to the patients. These efforts enabled the communities we serve to weather the storm of the pandemic’s many surges and emerge from the pandemic’s grip as quickly as possible.

Even while COVID required constant vigilance, the team at Neighborhood Healthcare never wavered from providing whole-person care in many other areas. The behavioral health team’s effort to create a mobile facility for high school students in Escondido is a prime example.

Dental health outreach initiatives in Riverside and San Diego Counties also ensured families received needed preventative and restorative treatments and access to essential women’s health, podiatry, pharmacy, vision, prenatal, and other services in addition to primary care. In partnership with other nonprofit and government agencies, we assisted countless patients in enrolling in Medi-Cal, Covered California, CalFresh food assistance, and social services.

Additionally, Neighborhood Healthcare’s team members actively participated at special events run by our partners. These included homeless outreach, food pantry campaigns, free cancer screening services, and education events on such topics as nutrition, diabetes prevention and prenatal care.

Equally as important to organizations like ours is the cadre of volunteers that contribute their time and talent to support others. In this spirit, Neighborhood Healthcare is grateful for the myriad of activities these individuals do, including:

  • Patient translation services to care for families where English is not their primary language
  • Information sessions at community gatherings and activities
  • Teen outreach programs
  • Senior citizens outreach programs

We’re looking forward to conducting random acts of gratitude at Neighborhood Healthcare this week by surprising our staff with small appreciation gifts at our locations across San Diego and Riverside counties. I look forward to thanking them in person for all that they do.

I do so because, at their core, staff and selfless volunteers who spend time in facilities like ours believe community health is about more than just vaccines and checkups. It’s about giving people the resources they need to live their best lives.

Community Health Centers across the United States share a vision to help build communities where everyone is healthy and happy. It’s not just a statement; it’s a core value proposition.

Rakesh Patel, MD, is the CEO of Neighborhood Healthcare, a community healthcare nonprofit organization for San Diego and Riverside Counties.



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