What is a Community Health Center (CHC) Anyway?

“A community health center is defined as a community-based and patient-directed organization that serve populations with limited access to health care.” For people living in Port-au-Prince Haiti a CHC is so much more. On Tuesday, December 16, the Congressional staff delegation went to visit an urban community health center in Petit Place Cazeau, operated by the SSQH project and funded by USAID.  The first thing you notice when you walk into the clinic is the crowds of people organized into stations for services.  Video screens are in every waiting area to make sure patients and their families are “learning while waiting,” videos today focused on sexual violence and what to do if someone has been violated. As you continue walking around the clinic, it’s clean, open and quite welcoming. Another thing you notice is the men in the clinic, many are holding their children or simply waiting with pregnant partners. This clinic provides a fully integrated package of health services but most women are here for prenatal services, including HIV screening. Often men are not integrated into clinic visits due to space; in this clinic there was room for men and other family members to accompany their partners.

Years ago, I was the clinic director for a similar type of clinic in Houston, Texas. Women, many needing subsidized services, came into the clinic to find out if they were pregnant or to receive prenatal services. Very early on, one of the things that was obvious  was the need for space for children and other family members to accompany the women. Simply having enough chairs helped women stay longer and come more frequently. Another tool to maximize time in the clinic was the use of educational videos on topics such as support for victims of violence, long term birth control methods, and prenatal health. My visit to Petit Place Cazeau was a reminder that women and their families, no matter where they lived in the world, want the same access to quality health services and how important these services are to so many.

Funding for programs like these clinics, both in the US and around the world, not only help provide lifesaving services but they also promote the basic principle that “health is a human right” for everyone.

A mom and her baby at the SSQH clinic. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

A mom and her baby at the SSQH clinic in Petit Place Cazeau. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

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