Provision of Social Services and Health Care Quality in US Community Health Centers, 2017

Am J Public Health. 2020 Apr;110(4):567-573. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2019.305519. Epub 2020 Feb 20.


Objectives. To describe the types of social services provided at community health centers (CHCs), characteristics of CHCs providing these services, and the association between on-site provision and health care quality.Methods. We surveyed CHCs in 12 US states and the District of Columbia during summer 2017 (n = 208) to identify referral to and provision of services to address 8 social needs. Regression models estimated factors associated with the provision of social services by CHCs and the association between providing services and health care quality (an 8-item composite).Results. CHCs most often offered on-site assistance for needs related to food or nutrition (43%), interpersonal violence (32%), and housing (30%). Participation in projects with community-based organizations was associated with providing services on-site (odds ratio = 2.48; P = .018). On-site provision was associated with better performance on measures of health care quality (e.g., each additional social service was associated with a 4.3 percentage point increase in colorectal cancer screenings).Conclusions. Some CHCs provide social services on-site, and this was associated with better performance on measures of health care quality.Public Health Implications. Health care providers are increasingly seeking to identify and address patients' unmet social needs, and on-site provision of services is 1 strategy to consider.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Centers / organization & administration
  • Community Health Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Domestic Violence
  • Food Supply
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Work / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States