History & Background

A Brief History of the Native American Health Center

Native American Health Center was established in 1972 in San Francisco to meet the health care needs of one of the largest populations of American Indians in the country. American Indians had little access to mainstream health care systems motivating Indian community leaders to seek funding from the federal Indian Health Service to create the Native American Health Center.

The Indian population shifted from San Francisco to Oakland crowding newly leased clinic space in Oakland. With federal Indian Health Service funding comprising nearly 90% of the budget, a substantial turning point was the purchase of a four story, 16,000 square foot facility in the Fruitvale neighborhood. The dream was realized in the opening of the American Indian Human Services Building at 3124 East 14th Street. This visionary asset in the Indian community drove a movement in the organization for services and programs to be based upon needs in the community, not the needs of federal funders. This shift created new programs such as perinatal care and the establishment of the Family and Child Guidance Clinic.

Focusing on health care as a local issue, the organization created new programs, added new funding sources and expanded the scope of services provided. Native American Health Center focused its efforts on prevention and youth with the creation of the youth center, Tribal Athletics Program and working with a cluster of Indian youth service providers. The vision created by our youth challenged us to look to our history for strength, create a new vision for our future generations and respond to our youth's call to action.

Now is the time to seek a new interpreter of dreams and visions yet to be revealed. We've dreamed our dreams. We need to help guide the vision for future generations. As our doctors see the children of children who were first served when Native American Health Center began, we realize generations of patients return to the Native American Health Center. We are willing to pass the interpretation of the original dream to our brave youth.


This year, NAHC celebrates its 40 year anniversary. We have built a model that brought us much success and has contributed to the agency’s phenomenal growth. However, this model needs an update to serve us well in the new environment created by health care reform. We need to evolve in order to ensure we are here for the next 40 years. Health care on a national level is undergoing dramatic transformation and will initiate changes that will greatly impact our agency. As a response to this change, NAHC is implementing new strategies and creating new, key positions to help us best serve our community to support the agency through change. Based on internal and external advice, we have decided to restructure the organization and recruit staff that will have the experience, knowledge and passion to ensure survival in the new health reform environment and continue the expansion aligned with the mission of our agency. One step toward this change is the implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHR)/NextGen, which will improve and streamline our documentation efforts and allow us to provide services more efficiently. The move from a paper to an electronic system has been mandated under health care reform. For the past 12 months, key staff worked on the selection and implementation of an electronic medical system for the business and clinical functions of the clinic.