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Pediatricians Needed in the Heartland

Cora Nucci, for HealthLeaders Media, December 29, 2010

Nearly 1 million children live in places where there are no local pediatricians. Those places tend to be rural and poor, the report says.

What's to be done? The authors say "Accountability for public funding of physician training should include efforts to develop, to use, and to evaluate policiesaimed at reducing disparities in geographic access to primary care physicians for children."

HHS took a step in that direction in October with a grant of $772 million for the construction, expansion, and renovation of community health centers. Over the next five years, the Affordable Care Act will provide $11 billion for this purpose. "The newly constructed or expanded community health centers will provide care to an additional 745,000 patients and much needed employment opportunities in both rural and urban underserved communities," Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

But without doctors to staff those facilities, the problem of adequate access to care will remain. Rural hospitals should take a look at the efforts of Sanford Health, the primary healthcare network serving the six-state Frontier region, which includes the Dakotas. Sanford has learned to grow its own doctorsAnd that's a great start to making sure the kids in rural areas are all right.


Cora Nucci is the Digital Associate Editorial Director for HealthLeaders Media.
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1 comments on "Pediatricians Needed in the Heartland"


Roger Downey (12/29/2010 at 12:04 PM)
Cora, Typically, when anyone brings up the topic of the distribution of healthcare professionals, it is usually accompanied by some government program that will either encourage or kindly force physicians to live and work in some underserved areas. There will always be physicians, nurses and PAs who will believe it is their life's mission to work in these areas. But a majority would prefer to live where you and I would choose - near relatives, preferred schools, restaurants, theaters, etc. Just because they chose to enter the medical profession should not mean that now they are obligated to live where patients need them. Since life isn't fair, we shouldn't expect patients and providers to be in near perfect balance. The real solution is to bring the physician to the patient via telemedicine. This is more convenient for both and more cost-effective, and if you are concerned about it, telemedicine has a smaller carbon footprint. Instead of wringing our hands and whining about what will we do, what will we do, why not begin telemedicine programs in these underserved areas.