Accountable Communities for Health (ACHs) are multi-sector, community-based partnerships that aim to address community health and social needs. Community health centers are local, non-profit community-governed health care providers which by mission and mandate offer comprehensive primary and preventive care to underserved populations and high-need communities. Both ACHs and CHCs play a critical role in addressing health-related social needs and social determinants of health. A new issue brief examines CHC engagement within ACHs and identifies opportunities and challenges for CHC participation. The brief presents findings based on a survey of ACHs on CHC engagement and follow-up conversations with ACH and CHC representatives. Among the key findings are:

  • ACHs frequently partner with CHCs, and CHCs often participate in the governance of ACHs. While there is great variation in the nature of CHC participation in ACHs, a majority of the survey respondents reported that CHCs participated in their ACH under contract or other formal engagement.
  • Participating CHCs provide a number of services and have leading or supporting roles in various programs, most often related to reaching underserved populations, assessing community health needs, serving as a resource/linkage to other human services, and building community engagement and trust.
  • Strengthened CHC capacity, staffing, and funding, as well as shared technology for data sharing, are needed in order to achieve active and broader CHC participation in ACHs.

The researchers suggest that federal policy makers provide opportunities for stronger relationship-building between CHCs and other key stakeholders that may participate in an ACH, give those CHCs that participate in an ACH more flexibility in how they spend their federal grants, explore support for CHCs as AHC backbone organizations, encourage CHC engagement in ACH initiatives through Alternative Payment Methodology incentives, and standardize approaches to data systems and data collections. These steps are essential as community health centers and safety-net providers seek to recover from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations and communities.

The brief was produced by The Funders Forum on Accountable Health and Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative.
Download the brief