Health care is an important facet of economic development. In addition to being one of the top industries in many regions, health care is an important contributor to quality of life and can impact workforce and business retention in a region.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a resource than can be leveraged by both health professionals and local governments. HRSA’s mission is to “provide health care to people who are geographically isolated, economically or medically vulnerable.”1 In working towards this mission, the HRSA collects data and provides maps and reports to accurately depict the distribution of health services and pinpoint regions that could benefit from improvements in health care delivery.
For this month’s indicator we explored their data on health care professions, which is collected from the American Dental Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Community Survey. This data is collected at the county level and aggregated for each state.
What’s the data telling us?
The table below displays the top fifteen states/territories by concentration of Medical Doctors per 100,000 population in 2016. The District of Columbia has the highest concentration of doctors with 634.1 medical doctors per 100,000 population while Guam has the lowest at 78.7.
While it is helpful to know each state/territory’s concentration relative to other geographies, it does not accurately represent the concentration of medical doctors across each individual state. Examining the concentration of medical doctors at the county level provides greater insight into access to health care across the state. For example, Pennsylvania ranked 11th out of 55 states and territories in terms of the highest concentration of medical doctors, with 276.6 medical doctors per 100,000 population. The majority of the doctors however are located in a select few counties, with one county having zero medical doctors. As displayed below the medical doctors are primarily concentrated in the Counties of Philadelphia and Allegany, areas with major medical schools and establishments to support a wide array of health professionals. Furthermore, Forest County, PA, which is largely Alleghany National Forest land, has zero recorded medical doctors.
Why is this important?
Access and availability to quality health care services is directly tied to the economy. Rural areas are often those most impacted by health care shortages. Shortages and lack of health care in rural areas inhibits growth both at a population and industry level. Simply put, health care is essential to survival.
A low number of medical doctors in an area does not always translate to insufficient access to health care – this is also dependent on numerous other conditions including population size, health demand, and concentration of other health professions including nurses, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, dentists, and physicians. It is important to remember that one indicator alone does not provide an accurate view of the situation. In our work at Camoin we take a comprehensive look at the economic climate surrounding our clients by exploring trends in industry, workforce, population needs, local and regional assets, etc. This allows us to provide dynamic, effective strategies to address challenges and create real change within a community. We know that health care is essential to economic growth and improving health care assets and expanding coverage requires investment at the federal, state, and local levels.
For more information on the Health Resources & Services Administration or to explore the data on your own, visit https://data.hrsa.gov/topics/health-workforce/ahrf.
1. Human Resources and Services Administration, https://data.hrsa.gov/