Where Are the "Healthcare Deserts" Located?

New research into "healthcare deserts" finds that primary care physicians are especially hard to find in predominantly Black and/or low-income Hispanic metropolitan neighborhoods, according to the Health Behavior News Service.

Researchers examined U.S. Census and American Medical Association data from 2000 and 2006 to determine which zip codes in U.S. metropolitan areas had a shortage of primary care physicians, defined as one physician for 3,500 or more people or no physician at all.


After controlling for other demographic and economic factors, 25.6 percent of Blacks and 24.3 of Hispanics lived in zip codes with few or no primary care physicians, compared to 9.6 percent of Asian and 13.2 percent of Whites. Zip codes that were identified with mostly Black or Hispanic residents were more likely to have a shortage of primary care physicians. However, the disparity disappeared for Hispanics after controlling for socioeconomic factors. Shortages in Asian and some Hispanic neighborhoods may be averted by the immigration of foreign-trained doctors, the researchers said.

As for black neighborhoods, researchers said it may be difficult to financially sustain a practice in black neighborhoods because higher proportions of black patients are uninsured or covered by Medicaid. Solutions include expanding health insurance coverage to the uninsured and increasing physicians' reimbursement from the government to relocate to neighborhoods with physician shortages.

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