Factors Associated with Local Health Departments’ Activities to Assure Access to Health Care Services

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American Journal of Preventative Medicine






Background: Local health departments (LHDs) can play an important role in linking people to personal health services and ensuring the provision of health care when it is otherwise unavailable. However, the extent to which LHDs are involved in ensuring access to health care in its jurisdictions is not well known.

Purpose: To provide nationally representative estimates of LHD involvement in specific activities to ensure access to healthcare services and to assess their association with macro-environment/community and LHD capacity and process characteristics.

Methods: Data used were from the 2010 National Profile of Local Health Departments Study, Area Resource Files, and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials’ 2010 Profile of State Public Health Agencies Survey. Data were analyzed in 2012.

Results: Approximately 66.0% of LHDs conducted activities to ensure access to medical care, 45.9% to dental care, and 32.0% to behavioral health care. About 28% of LHDs had not conducted activities to ensure access to health care in their jurisdictions in 2010. LHDs with higher per capita expenditures and larger jurisdiction population sizes were more likely to provide access to care services (p <0.05).

Conclusions: There is substantial variation in LHD engagement in activities to ensure access to care. Differences in LHD capacity and the needs of the communities in which they are located may account for this variation. Further research is needed to determine whether this variation is associated with adverse population health outcomes.