Expanding Community Health Centers Will Improve Access to Services for ‘Medically Underserved,’ JAMA Study Says
Community health centers provide both "quality" health services and improved "continuity of care" to medically underserved and low-income individuals, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association states. Community health centers act as the federal government's "principal" way to ensure the medically underserved and low-income receive care. More than seven million individuals received primary care services from more than 600 community health centers in 1994, a number that increased to more than eight million individuals in 1998. Using data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Survey and Bureau of Primary Health Care's Survey of Visits to Community Health Centers, researchers compared primary care visits to community health centers, hospital outpatient departments and physicians' offices in 1994 and 1998. According to the study, ethnic minorities, Medicaid recipients and the uninsured were "more likely" than other groups to visit community health centers. Furthermore, individuals who had previously received treatment at community health centers were "more likely" to make a return visit if "they experienced another health problem" (Children's Defense Fund Child Health Information Project, 10/27). The researchers concluded that expanding community health centers "will likely improve access to primary care for vulnerable U.S. populations. However enhancing access to physicians' offices is also needed to bolster the safety net" (Forrest/Whelan, "Primary Care Safety-Net Delivery Sites in the United States," JAMA, Oct. 25 issue). The study is available at http://jama.ama-assn.org/issues/current/rpdf/joc00665.pdf.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.