September 30, 2019

Disparities in Primary Care Access: Q&A with Kirsten Weisbeck

PCDC’s newly released Primary Care Profiles identify marked disparities in primary care access in New York City, measured on a City Council District level.

The findings hold great potential for policy and advocacy efforts, says Health Research Analyst Kirsten Weisbeck, MPH, who co-authored the profiles. A member of the Evaluation and Analytics team, Weisbeck specializes in researching access to primary care and related health outcomes.

In a recent conversation, Weisbeck offered more context on researching citywide inequities.

Why are the Primary Care Profiles important?

Primary care is central to the conversation about health care access, but at present, there is no public report that describes primary care access in New York City.

Specifically, primary care is a common entry point to the health care system. It also offers an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider (PCP) — a relationship linked to better overall health outcomes for patients with even the most complex health needs.

By describing access at an actionable level — by New York City Council District — Council members and health advocates alike can complement their local knowledge and take steps to meaningfully reduce barriers to care.


What do the profiles tell us?

The profiles show many important factors that contribute to primary care access in each district, including primary care provider availability, health status, insurance coverage, preventable ED visit rates, and more. These high-level glimpses allow us to compare primary care access between districts and identify areas where high need and low access overlap.

For example, in District 41 there are an estimated 2.6 PCPs per 10,000 adult residents and a high prevalence of diabetes (15.2%) — ranking lower in these metrics than almost all other districts. When paired with the district’s high rate of adults living below the federal poverty level (27.4%), many questions come to mind.

Particularly for the district’s low-income residents, what is the effect of soaring insulin prices? Are residents getting the care continuity needed to manage their diabetes?

Also, how might constituents benefit from additional primary care providers in the area or enhanced programs like care coordination and pharmacy benefits? And if these issues are being addressed already, how might current efforts be supported?

This is just one example of how the reports can inform adjustments in resource allocation and offer tools to improve access to primary care — and in time, the quality of life for many New Yorkers.


Who might be most interested in the profiles?

Primary care advocates, policymakers, City Council members, and city planners will find the profiles to be a useful resource. Community-based organizations and community members in primary care-adjacent fields may also find the profiles helpful for exploring local health metrics and drawing insights to guide or support their work.


What general conclusions can you draw about the state of primary care access in New York City?

Our work highlights the inequities in access to primary care across New York City. This, in combination with disparities in health status and socioeconomic position, reflects how each New Yorker’s neighborhood directly affects their health outcomes.

By creating a report that details these data and characteristics at the district level, we hope to empower primary care advocates and address existing inequities in access to quality primary care citywide.

Read the citywide profile and/or district-specific reports