Primary care and public health activities in select US health centers: documenting successes, barriers, and lessons learned

Am J Public Health. 2012 Jun;102 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):S383-91. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300679.


Objectives: We examined primary care and public health activities among federally funded health centers, to better understand their successes, the barriers encountered, and the lessons learned.

Methods: We used qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data from 9 health centers, stratified by administrative division, urban-rural location, and race/ethnicity of patients served. Descriptive data on patient and institutional characteristics came from the Uniform Data System, which collects data from all health centers annually. We administered questionnaires and conducted phone interviews with key informants.

Results: Health centers performed well on primary care coordination and community orientation scales and reported conducting many essential public health activities. We identified specific needs for integrating primary care and public health: (1) more funding for collaborations and for addressing the social determinants of health, (2) strong leadership to champion collaborations, (3) trust building among partners, with shared missions and clear expectations of responsibilities, and (4) alignment and standardization of data collection, analysis, and exchange.

Conclusions: Lessons learned from health centers should inform strategies to better integrate public health with primary care.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Centers / economics
  • Community Health Centers / organization & administration*
  • Community-Institutional Relations*
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated*
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Public Health Practice*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • United States