Community Health in the ’60s

The 1960s introduced a greater emphasis on public health issues, beginning in 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the War on Poverty. By 1965, Medicare and Medicaid became the United State’s first public health insurance programs, and the first community health centers were opened.

The community health center model was brought state-side and championed by civil rights activists Dr. H. Jack Geiger and Dr. Count Gibson. While studying in South Africa, Dr. Geiger saw first hand how community-based health care systems brought vast health improvements to the poorest communities.

In 1965, Dr. Geiger and Dr. Gibson established two community-based health centers to care for under-served and poverty stricken communities in Boston, Massachusetts and Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Two years later, Seattle’s first community health clinic, the Open Door Clinic, was established in the University District. In 1968, the Joe Whiting Dental Clinic, which would later become a Neighborcare Health clinic, was opened in West Seattle


Neighborcare Health in the '60s

In the 1960s, Seattle started to expand and take the shape of a major city. It was in this decade that the Space Needle joined our skyline, the first cars drove down the Seattle Freeway (later renamed I-5), and the at the end of the decade, the city’s first community health centers popped up in local neighborhoods.

As the 60s progressed and the civil rights movement raged on, Seattle’s leaders in community health emerged. Among those leaders were two young medical students from the University of Washington, Dr. Meredith Matthews and Dr. John Naiden. Their research revealed disturbing findings about health disparities and access issues in Seattle. For example, a person living in low-income housing in West Seattle would need to take at least two buses and spend more than two hours to get to their nearest source of care.

As a result of that research, one of Neighborcare Health’s first clinics, the High Point Medical Clinic, was opened in a two bedroom housing unit in July, 1969. The clinic was an immediate success, with 15 patients seen by medical providers on the very first night.

By the end of the 1960s, Seattle was home to four community health centers. Three of these clinics, the Open Door Clinic, Joe Whiting Dental Clinic and High Point Medical Clinic would go on to be operated by Neighborcare Health.