Incubators of Innovation: Our Nation’s Community Health Centers

  • August 12, 2016


One of the most effective primary care provider networks in America’s healthcare system, community health centers started over 50 years ago right here in Massachusetts as a pilot project during President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Today, over 1,300 health centers across the country have a significant record of success:

  • Producing $24 billion in annual health system savings
  • Reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and unnecessary visits to the emergency room
  • Treating patients for a fraction of the average cost of one emergency room visit
  • Maintaining patient satisfaction levels of nearly 100 percent
  • Generating $26.5 billion in economic activity and over 230,000 jobs
  • Reducing infant mortality rates

In Massachusetts, 50 community health centers:

  • Serve 951,000 patients (that’s one in seven state residents) through more than 300 sites
  • Generate 14,000 jobs and contribute $2 billion in total statewide output
  • Produce $1.2 billion in annual savings for the state’s health system
  • Surpass national benchmarks for a host of clinical quality measures, including those focused on asthma, hypertension, healthy birthweights for newborns and immunizations

Massachusetts community health centers prevent illness and foster wellness in unique populations, producing innovative solutions to the most pressing healthcare issues in our communities. From providing some of the nation’s first HIV services, to pioneering models of care for patients suffering with chronic illness, to expanding dental coverage for millions of underserved residents, Massachusetts health centers continue to meet the never-ending challenge of providing access to care for people who, without community health centers, might not have it.


Seventy (70) percent of Whittier’s patients have an underlying chronic health problem(s).  To combat this public health issue here at Whittier St. patients get a “Prescription for Health” A Prescription for Health is written by the provider, the physical therapist, or the clinician, delineating type and intensity of exercise recommended.  A Health Coach, who is a nutritionist and certified fitness trainer, meets with each individual as s/he begins to access services at the Fitness Center. The Fitness Center includes machines, a weight room, and multiple classes led by certified instructors.  The Fitness Center is designed to combat health inequities within our neighborhoods through exercise and nutrition interventions. The club embodies an integrative approach towards wellness and includes programs that address the mind, body and spirit such as group fitness classes, yoga, nutrition counseling, and individualized fitness training. Exercise is a great way to combat stress, obesity, and to help manage and prevent these chronic conditions. Whittier Street Wellness and Fitness Club is open to —patients, community residents, and health center employees.  Connected to the fitness initiative is the Community Garden. In June, 2015 we opened the garden, to be planted, cared for, and harvested by Whittier patients. Every Wednesday the Garden Club meets in the garden, harvests food, and the two nutritionists will give patients recipes and suggestions for eating these healthy foods.


Community health centers have the unique ability to reach beyond the walls of conventional medicine and address the social factors that may cause and perpetuate sickness, such as lack of nutrition, mental illness, homelessness and addiction. Our long record of success in managing healthcare costs and reducing chronic disease are due to our understanding of the true needs of our patients and our communities at large.


As we celebrate National Health Center Week, community health centers across the Commonwealth will be hosting health fairs, back-to-school drives, legislative breakfasts, free health screenings and dental cleanings, and much more.


To learn more about NHCW and the listing of events please visit:


You can also follow the conversation using #NHCW16 or #CHCsInnovate on Twitter.

A note about Whittier and COVID-19

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in our area, we ask all clients and patients to call ahead before coming to any of our sites. We are working to take care of most clients/patients via phone/video encounter so we can meet your ongoing healthcare needs. This is for your safety and so we can provide the highest quality of care to you while following CDC guidance for COVID-19. Please call 617-427-1000 for any questions or concerns.

Whittier will provide COVID-19 testing from 10 am to 4 pm on Monday to Friday. Following CDC guidance, we recommend testing if you have a fever AND one of the following three symptoms: cough OR shortness of breath OR sore throat. Please bring your picture identification and your insurance card (if you have insurance).