Over 59 million Americans reside in federally designated health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) for primary care. These areas tend to be in remote rural towns and inner city urban areas. Therefore, even if 32 million uninsured Americans gain insurance under Obamacare, millions will still have trouble accessing basic care because there are no primary care providers available in their area.
Over 6 million Californians, including 1.2 million in LA County, reside in such areas without basic access to primary care. Lack of access to basic care remains one of the most enduring and troublesome problems with the American health care system. No matter how many physicians this country educates or imports, these challenges remain because most doctors prefer to live and practice in "green leafy suburbs."
One way to provide medical care to people who lack access is to develop incentives to bring doctors into these areas, such as building community health centers and providing loan repayment programs, etc. To be eligible for such programs, an area must be designated as a HPSA for primary care. Despite more than 20,000 physicians in LA County, several communities, particularly those in South LA and the Northeast San Fernando Valley, have such designations. In addition, many other LA cities and areas should have such a designation based on their demographics. Due to the arduous nature of collecting the data, no report has been formally submitted to the government for recognition of these underserved areas.
During this summer fellowship you will work with Dr. Patrick Dowling, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine. You will learn how to collect and compile data in order to prepare at least one application to have a low-income neighborhood in LA County designated as an HPSA. This is an excellent exercise to learn about the physician workforce and the geographic mal-distribution of physicians in LA County. It will also provide you with an introduction to health care policy and strategies to get health care resources into an underserved community.
More information on the HPSA process can be found by searching "state of California shortage designation" and looking at the following sites:
The program consists of the following components: