Family First Health was born during a moment in history when York City’s most vulnerable citizens were in desperate need of care.
In 1970, a group of community leaders held a meeting known today as the York Charrette. This meeting became the catalyst for a series of changes addressing the needs of our city’s underserved population, including education, housing and race relations.
At that time, one of York City’s biggest challenges was the lack of quality healthcare for the most vulnerable members of our community. Family First Health, then called York Health Corporation, was created in response to the York Charrette to fill this gap and provide exceptional care to the underserved populations of York City.
Accessible Care Becomes a Reality for Our Community’s Most Vulnerable Members
When we opened our doors in 1970, our team consisted of a small group of volunteer nurses and physicians who were intent on creating a healthier community. Our founders recognized, however, that simply opening a health center in the city wasn’t enough. We had to make our care accessible by getting out into neighborhoods, understanding our patients’ needs and developing relationships with them founded on trust.
With this realization, making healthcare accessible to our region’s most vulnerable populations and addressing health disparities became our mission, and it continues to be our guiding light to this day.
Expanding Our Footprint and Our Services
In the 1970s, the number of physicians who joined in our mission grew substantially as our model of care showed increasingly greater success in closing the healthcare gap. After two years of sharing space with the Visiting Nurse Association, Family First Health moved into a facility at 118 N. George Street in York City. The new facility meant additional services, additional hours, and even better care for the York City community.
More expansion quickly followed. In 1972, Family First Health opened its second location in Hanover, followed by Lewisberry in 1973. Then in 1983, just over 10 years later, the York City office moved a few blocks down the street, and we expanded our services even more, including adding dental services for our patients.
In the early 1980s, we took a huge leap forward in the quality of care we provided to our Spanish-speaking population with the hiring of our first bilingual interpreter. Since then, the resources available to serve our Latino community have grown with every passing year. Today, over half of our medical administrators and staff are bilingual, and they serve the nearly 25% of Family First Health patients whose primary language is Spanish.
Practice Manager Sue Posey, who works out of our George Street center, began her career with Family First Health in 1979. Since then, she has seen the organization grow from 15 employees when she arrived to more than 250 today. She recalls the day when the first Spanish-speaking staff member joined the team and has seen the incredible impact Family First Health has made in the Latino community in every county we serve ever since.
“Our Latino patients display such gratitude for having a health center with staff who speak their language. Language is a huge barrier to care. Being able to see someone who looks and speaks like our patients makes them feel more comfortable and more willing to seek the care they need.”
Practice Manager Sue Posey
New Programs, New Technologies, and New Milestones Allow Us to Provide Holistic Care
Over the last fifty years, Family First Health has given patients better access to primary family care and so much more. We’ve created entire programs that tackle specialized areas within healthcare to better treat the whole patient.
In 1991, we received funding from a Federal program that allowed us to provide HIV/AIDs social services. Today, our Caring Together program provides medical and social services to individuals with HIV/AIDs throughout our communities.
In 1997, we expanded again to establish the county’s only school-based health center in York County with the opening of our Hannah Penn health center in the City of York School District.
Then, in 2001, Family First Health incorporated the national program, Nurse-Family Partnership. The start of this program marked a special milestone for our health center as we began helping first-time mothers through pregnancy and the first two years of their child’s life. This gave us an incredible opportunity to care for a highly vulnerable population within our community and give young mothers the skills to earn a living to support their family well after the birth of their child.
As the 2000s rolled on, we continued to open several new health centers across multiple counties. In 2006, we officially changed our name from York Health Corporation to Family First Health. This shift marked a rededication to our mission of serving those families across our region who needed us the most.
Family First Health reached yet another milestone a few years later – the switch from paper records to electronic records with its first electronic health record system. Making this shift introduced an entirely new way of making care more accessible for patients. Most notably, we introduced a notification system that reminded patients of upcoming appointments. This allowed our physicians to provide more proactive care and decreased the number of missed visits.
These milestone programs are just a sample of what our organization has done since it first opened back in 1970 – treat the whole patient, not just the disease.
2020: A Bright Future Lies Ahead
As we celebrate 50 years of Family First Health and the impact we’ve made on the communities we serve, a new challenge faces us and the people under our care … a worldwide pandemic.
This historic event is shining a bright light on the health disparities that exist among the underserved and vulnerable populations. And across our country and the world, the direct link between these disparities and the inability for at-risk populations to access quality healthcare has become ever more visible. In this unique moment in history, the COVID-19 crisis has driven a recommitment to our core mission to improve the health of the underserved residents in our communities.
For Family First Health CEO Jenny Englerth, the pandemic has revealed what many health care providers have already suspected.
“Over our 50 years, we’ve defined and executed on our mission in many ways. COVID has forced us to look harder at the issues of social injustice and inequity, and the direct impact those inequities have on people’s health,” Englerth said. “We may have known that intuitively, but we’re now seeing it right in front of us.”
Our 50th year will mark a recommitment to doing the hard work of breaking through the health disparities that can stem from social inequities. As we look ahead to our next 50 years and beyond, we’re making a renewed commitment to our patients and the communities we serve:
- We’re committed to becoming an even louder voice and an even stronger advocate for our patients as we work to break the systemic barriers to health that arise from income, race, and geography.
- We’re committed to becoming even more creative in our delivery models. COVID-19 has given us new ways to make care accessible through initiatives like telehealth. We’re already seeing the positive impacts these new delivery methods are having on our patients’ health.
- We’re committed to placing a greater focus on patient data. Data can play a key role in giving our health centers the ability to drive interventions and support patient health. Collecting and processing data gives us the ability to turn theory into practice and implement those programs and initiatives that are making the biggest impact on patient health.
“As our organization continues to grow and evolve, the one thing that will never change is our whole-patient approach to primary care. Whatever our patients need, we work with them to find a solution. Our patients trust us, and because we’ve built that trust with them, they call us when they need support. This is what makes primary care effective and what lets us deliver the best possible care.”
Family First Health CEO, Jenny Englerth
Our patients and families hold a special place in the heart and history of Family First Health. Join us in celebrating our First 50 and support us as we continue to share our story and care for our community. Click below to make a donation and help us continue to provide high-quality health care services over the next 50 years!