Nurse Heide Parreno with Director, Dr.  Bruce Miyahara,  1976 

Susie Chin, Helping the Elders, 1977

Traditional Medicine Clinic opening,  1996

C h e w  C o m m u n i c a t i o n s

Original Clinic Storefront
at 416 Maynard Ave, Seattle

History of International Community Health Services


Phone: 206.349.8883



To commemorate the Thirty-fifth anniversary of International Community Health Services [ICHS] in 2008, Chew Communications created a publication and video documenting the creation and growth of ICHS in Seattle’s International District.   The project draws on archival materials, newspaper accounts and, most extensively, the memories of the many people who took ICHS from a tenuous grass-roots organization in a run-down storefront to a world class community health organization.  Its story is a key chapter in the late history of the district.



By the early 1970s, hundreds of elderly first and second generation Chinese, Filipinos and Japanese lived in the International District, often in dilapidated SRO (single room occupancy) hotels.  Most were men who spent their lives as laborers and lived on cobbled together incomes of Social Security, public assistance and family support if available.  Many rooms had no private bathrooms and tenants heated their tiny spaces with their gas or electric cooking surface.  At the same time, pressure from developers on the neighborhood threatened the already vulnerable elderly residents’ place to live.  When
King County built the Kingdome sports stadium nearby, it made the district a target  for redevelopers desiring to displace the residents.

ICHS, or “ID Clinic”, as locals call it, has its roots in the do-it-yourself community activism of the era.  Young activists, many of them college students motivated by a desire to make a difference outside “the system”, saw the threats to the historic neighborhood and the challenges faced by their elders.  They understood the need for multi-lingual care in a place easily accessible to the community.  These passionate individuals donated their time and talents to the cause of creating the clinic as a key part of the overall effort to save the community.  Beginning with no budget and few resources, the ID Clinic, like a number of community grass-roots clinics that opened in Seattle at the time, filled the gap left by hospitals that were reducing or eliminating their health support for the poor.

By the 1980s, cuts in the  budget and the arrival of a new Southeast Asian Immigrant population made it a time of struggle for the clinic.  However, the staff and volunteers were committed to continue providing excellent care even as demand grew.  While these were lean years,  the ID Clinic expanded services, becoming professionalized with a larger paid staff and provided new services including obstetrics and pediatric care.   

By the early 1990s, the clinic outgrew it’s original storefront location.  ICHS partnered with other community social service organizations in creating the new Village Square Project and also opened a branch clinic in Holly Park to better serve the increasingly dispersed population.  In addition, due to a growing demand and acceptance for alternative healing practices, ICHS expanded services to provide traditional treatments to patients.

Today ICHS is an anchor in the International District and employs about 300 people.  Yet it retains its idealism and commitment to its grassroots origins, to it’s mission to provide accessible, affordable care to the community.  The early activists’ rallying ideal of health care as a right still resonates in the staff and volunteers ICHS.