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 doctors. And that's a great start to making sure the kids in rural areas are all right.