Community Health in the ’70s

In the 1970s, health care remained a critical concern for the many Americans who still lacked access to basic care. While the use of health care technologies, such as the CT scanner, MRI scanner and vaccines became more common, the United States found itself in a health care crisis caused by a dramatic increase in the cost of care.  

By the end of 1970, the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee held the first congressional hearings on national health insurance in 20 years. Soon after, the National Association of Neighborhood Health Centers (later to become the National Association of Community Health Centers, or NACHC) was founded to provide education, training and technical assistance to community health centers’ staff and board members, in addition to lobbying on behalf of Community Health Centers across the U.S. Over the next five years, the organization and its membership fought to establish community health centers as permanent fixtures of the American health care system.

Finally in 1975, ten years after the first community health centers opened as a “demonstration effort,” the Community Health Center Program was authorized by Congress as a permanent program. Congress enacted legislation that authorized neighborhood health centers as “Community Health Centers” and the oversite was transferred from the Economic Opportunity Act to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). 

At this time, President Jimmy Carter subsequently called for the major expansion of health centers, including the Rural Health Initiative, more than doubling program funding over four years. The new community health centers were established to provide quality care to underserved populations in both rural and urban areas, and encouraged collaborative partnerships between public and private providers.


Neighborcare Health in the '70s

As the ’70s began, the momentum created by the protests and advocacy in the ’60s continued to move the needle forward on national and local social justice issues, including the use of public spaces and land. On September 12, 1971, nearly 2,000 Seattleites marched on the old railroad tracks along the shores of Lake Washington in support of converting the tracks into what is now the Burke Gilman Trail.

That same year, Seattle residents prevented city council from turning the historic Pike Place Market into a series of high-rise buildings. Architect and preservationist Victor Steinbrueck and the advocacy group Friends of the Market collected nearly 53,000 signatures in favor of preserving the market. The petition successfully overturned the city’s plans for redevelopment, and as a result, the Pike Place Market became a protected historic district. With the market saved, two grassroots activists seized the opportunity to address the lack of access to health care in the area, and opened the Pike Place Market Clinic in an old one-room tavern in 1978.

Throughout the decade, Seattle’s community clinics saw an increase in diverse, lower-income patients with more complex health issues. As a result, more community health clinics were opened throughout the city to provide Seattle’s underserved neighborhoods with access to health care, including the Seattle Indian Health Board, Country Doctor Community Clinic, Rainier Vista Medical Clinic, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, the Asian Community Health Clinic, and the Georgetown and Southeast Dental Clinics.

In 1973,  the Joe Whiting Dental Clinic, High Point Medical Clinic, and Georgetown and Southeast Dental Clinics came together to become Southwest Medical and Dental Services of Seattle. This group, later renamed Neighborhood Health Centers of Seattle, was the precursor to Neighborcare Health.