In our combined 60-plus years of public service, we have seen many positive changes in how healthcare is provided to the large population of low income and underinsured citizens in Yuba and Sutter Counties.

At one time, this community provided four independent hospitals plus individual and group physician practices to serve our population. In the early 1960s, hospital-based service was found to be too expensive and inefficient for both taxpayers and insurance carriers to continue utilizing hospitals as the primary provider of outpatient care. This condition was common throughout the United States and resulted in the establishment of community health centers like Peach Tree Health, Ampla Health, Feather River Tribal Health and others in our community.

These health centers have developed into robust medical homes to meet the sharp increase in demand brought on by our increasing population as well as the recent approval by Congress of the Affordable Care Act.

This week, Aug. 9-15, is National Health Center Week. It marks the 50th anniversary of America's health centers. What began as a modest demonstration program in the mid-1960s has evolved into the largest and most successful primary care system in the country.

Since their inception, health centers have demonstrated impressive results in reducing infant mortality, improving immunizations rates, developing programs for early screening and treatment of cancer and managing chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Today, health centers serve more than 23 million Americans, including about 7 million children and 260,000 veterans in more than 9,200 communities across the country. In Yuba County alone, the California Primary Care Association indicates 43,511 persons receive care from community clinics.

Nonprofit Peach Tree Health, of which we are board members, sees more than 25,000 patients in Yuba-Sutter, totaling more than 80,000 office visits a year, in four locations within our two counties. We are on the front lines of promoting prevention and battling chronic disease in Yuba-Sutter.

Over the 20 years we have been in business, we have been pleased to add many services to our basic array of medical care. Newly established optometric services, contracted pharmacy availability, dental care for children and adults add to the positive changes we are committed to making in supporting the health of individuals in our community.

In the past year, Peach Tree has expanded its system of care to include a clinic in North Sacramento in which we are in partnership with Dignity Health, as well as the Birthing Project, where expectant mothers receive care prior to and including delivery of their infants.

Our experience is that health care delivered by community health centers offering a comprehensive delivery of services and located in easily accessible locations in our communities is a viable cost effective way of providing needed health care.

Most community health centers operate in partnership with other local providers of care to improve patient outcomes. At Peach Tree Health, we are grateful of our partnership with Rideout Regional Medical Center for provision of our patients' needs for inpatient care and, through rental agreement, allowing us to have space on their campus to see the outpatient needs of patients who can be diverted from the busy Emergency Department.

Despite the value Peach Tree and other community health centers bring to the community, we, like most clinics serving the low income residents of the community, are underfunded. Our health care system is increasingly complex, and many dollars are captured by the increasing governmental regulation of this industry, as well as by insurance administration costs.

Both of us take this opportunity, during National Health Center Week, to thank our patients and community partners for their support in our goal to be sure that we have a very healthy community. We ask the people in our community to support our local community health care facilities (we hope you Pick Peach Tree Health Care) in Yuba-Sutter, either through donations, volunteer activities, advocacy, or by becoming a board member.

Community involvement will make Yuba-Sutter healthier and a better place to live.

John Nicoletti is a member of the Yuba County Board of Supervisors and is board chairman for Peach Tree Health Center. Ed Smith, retired Sutter County director of Human Services, is a Peach Tree Health Center board member.

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