Community Health Centers — What Camps Should Know

April 2016
Community Health Center

This past fall, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell, invited the American Camp Association and a small group of other youth-serving organizations to join her in a conversation about youth health issues. ACA shared some of the trends related to health issues that were identified over the summer of 2015, and was pleased to find out that she is a passionate former camper. (Check out our Annual Camp Crisis Hotline review for those trends.)

While exploring some of the issues with the secretary and her staff, they proposed Community Health Centers as a solution to some of the issues ACA raised about access to health professionals for families (such as for a camp physical) and for camps in season (such as access to mental health professionals in times of crisis). As ACA was unfamiliar with the community health center offerings, further research into their model, access, and services was necessary. In order to learn more, Associate Director for Community Engagement Heidi Christensen with the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, arranged for ACA to meet with and interview the executive director of one of these community health care centers. Dr. Basim Khan is a physician and executive director of Neighborhood Health in Alexandria, Virginia. He sat down with ACA’s chief public policy and outreach officer to discuss how these health centers serve the needs of their communities. Subsequently, ACA has put together this overview for camps and camp families. 

Community Health Centers also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) include all health centers receiving grants under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHS). CHCs qualify for enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other benefits. CHCs must:

  • Provide high quality preventive and primary health care to all persons regardless of their ability to pay.
  • Establish a sliding fee discount program for those who do have some ability to pay.
  • Be a nonprofit or public organization.
  • Be community-based, with the majority of their governing board of directors composed of their patients.
  • Serve a medically underserved area or population.
  • Provide comprehensive primary care services.
  • Have an ongoing quality assurance program.

How Many Community Health Centers are There, And Where are They Located?
Nearly 1,400 health centers operate 9,800 service delivery sites in every U.S. state, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Pacific Basin; these health centers employ more than 170,000 staff who provide care for nearly 23 million patients. View all current community health centers. 

Implications for Camps and Camp Families
Camps have posed a number of questions to ACA over the years that may well be answered by utilizing these community health centers. Our most relevant questions are:

  1. “Camp families tell us that they are not able to get a camp physical for their child as required by our enrollment policies.”  Community Health Centers are located across the country and must provide services (including a camp physical) regardless of the family’s ability to pay. With 9,800 service delivery sites across the country — and most urban locations convenient to public transportation — there is sure to be a center a family can access for pre-camp physicals.
  2. “Our camp requires that all campers be vaccinated according to the law for school children in our state. Some families tell us that they don’t have access to free immunizations.” All community health centers provide free vaccines for uninsured children through the Vaccines for Children Program (VFC). The program is federally funded program and provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay. Children who are eligible for VFC vaccines are entitled to receive those vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). For more details, visit; 
  3. “We are a small operation and don’t have access to medical professionals to help us develop our procedures, advise us in a crisis, and find qualified health care staff. Where do we begin?”  ACA posed this question to Dr. Khan during our interview. He recommended that camps contact their local community health care center to discuss strategies and options. While outside the realm of their every-day charge to serve patients, he shared that all health center directors will most likely be open to talking with camps and examining ways to support camp operations and the camp community. While ultimately the goal of the health centers are to serve families in their community, they will likely recognize the important role of camp health centers being set up for success. Find a health center near you: 


Dr. Basim Khan is the executive director and a physician at Neighborhood Health in Alexandria, VA. They have 10 clinics throughout Arlington and Fairfax Counties. For more information, visit