Community Health Centers Beat National Rates on Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Clinical Quality Measures

DENVER—A study published this month in the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management finds
that Community Health Centers (CHCs) report minimal racial/ethnic disparities on select clinical
quality measures compared to national rates.

“These study results support what we know about the high standard CHCs set for culturally
appropriate care for patients of any race or ethnicity” says Jessica Sanchez, RN, MSN, FNP,
Chief Quality Officer of the Colorado Community Health Network (CCHN).

The researchers analyzed 2009 data from the Uniform Data System – the most comprehensive national source of data for the Health Center Program – and found that although some health
disparities do exist in clinical outcomes between racial/ethnic patient groups at CHCs, the magnitude of the differences is small. The researchers described the findings as noteworthy
compared to disparities found nationwide, especially given that CHCs serve predominantly
vulnerable populations. Differences in certain health measures between white and black/African
American patients, and differences between white and Hispanic patients, were smaller among
CHC patients than across the general US population. The three quality measures examined in
the study are hypertension control among adult patients, diabetes control among adult patients,
and low birth weight among newborns.

“This study shows that the efforts invested in by Health Centers to deliver the highest quality
care in culturally appropriate ways works to help lessen health disparities and helps people of all
racial/ethnic identities become empowered to manage their own health” adds Ms. Sanchez.

The study adds to the growing body of research about CHC performance. A study published in
2011 by Health Affairs found that Colorado Health Center patients use hospital services less
than those seen by private providers. Another study published in 2012 by the American Journal
of Preventive Medicine found that CHCs demonstrate equal or better performance on select
clinical quality measures, despite serving patients who have more chronic disease and
socioeconomic complexity.

Colorado’s 17 Community Health Centers are working on a plan, called Access for All Colorado,
to provide a health care home for one million Coloradans.