Community health centers (CHCs) are respected, trusted agencies within the health care delivery sector and civic society as a whole; they are well situated to be responsive and accountable to the needs and values of their communities. Beyond health services, they can be one of multiple institutions within a community where social forces gather to build social cohesion that can, in turn, promote community empowerment.
Rooted in a model developed in South Africa and designed to be highly responsive to local social needs, the CHC movement in the United States grew alongside other social movements of protest, identity, and empowerment of the 1960s and 1970s.Physicians Count D. Gibson, Jr., and H. Jack Geiger, widely credited as founders of the U.S. CHC movement, met during the 1964 Mississippi Summer Freedom Project voter registration campaign. Gibson and Geiger conceived of locally focused health centers designed to address unmet health and social needs. They founded two health centers — one in urban Boston (Columbia Point) and one in rural Mound Bayou, Mississippi.