The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) presented Velma Hendershott, President and Chief Executive Officer of InterCare Community Health Network, in Bangor, MI, with the 2011 “Outstanding Migrant Health Public Service Award.” The award honors outstanding leaders for their achievements and contributions to the migrant health center mission and to community-based health care overall. It was presented at the 2011 National Farmworker Health Conference in Delray Beach, FL. The national conference is the only one of its kind that brings together a host of health experts, activists, researchers and leaders to focus on health services for America’s migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
Hendershott was honored with the award because of her tireless work and leadership in the Community Health Center Movement and, specifically, for her work with migrant farmworkers. Over the years, Hendershott has made it her mission to represent migrant farmworkers and ensure their contributions to society are recognized, and their health needs are met. This mission stems from her parents, who advocated on behalf of farmworkers to increase access to health care, education, and other services that would enhance their quality of life. Her mother was one of the early executive directors of the organization that Hendershott now leads.
Hendershott continues to press state lawmakers on the need for portability of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid for farmworkers and their families, a key barrier to health care services. She is a former Board Chair of NACHC who has represented the organization at national events and press conferences. She was also chosen to discuss the impact of the landmark Affordable Care Act on Community Health Centers during a national Tele-Town Hall meeting held during National Health Center Week last August, which featured Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“I am very honored and humbled to receive this award, especially because it comes from my colleagues and peers — people who have achieved far more than I have and from who I have gained inspiration and mentoring over the years,” said Hendershott.
Community Health Centers serve as health care homes for over 23 million people in more than 8,000 communities across the country, including over one million farmworkers. Farmworkers frequently suffer from poor living and working conditions that can lead to an array of health problems, such as pesticide-related illnesses, hypertension, and diabetes. Migrant health centers, like all health centers, remove common barriers to care, such as transportation and language difficulties, and provide primary care services tailored to the unique health needs of the farmworker population. Studies show that people who gain regular access to primary care providers and preventive health services, such as regular check-ups and screenings, have better health outcomes and are thus less likely to require hospital admissions or visits to the emergency room.