To make them more responsive to their community's needs, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) are required to have a governing board comprising at least 51 percent consumers. However, the extent to which consumer board members actually resemble the typical FQHC patient has not been assessed, which according to the political science literature on representation may influence the board's ability to represent the community. This mixed-methods study uses four years of data from the Health Resources and Services Administration, combined with Uniform Data System, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Area Resource File data, to describe and identify factors associated with the composition of FQHC governing boards. Board members are classified into one of three groups: nonconsumers, nonrepresentative consumers (who do not resemble the typical FQHC patient), and representative consumers (who resemble the typical FQHC patient). The analysis finds that a minority of board members are representative consumers, and telephone interviews with a stratified random sample of thirty FQHC board members confirmed the existence of significant socioeconomic gaps between consumer board members and FQHC patients. This may make FQHCs less responsive to the needs of the predominantly low-income communities they serve.

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