This week, the Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC) released What’s the State of Primary Care in New York, a report showing close associations between New Yorkers’ health status and their access to primary care.
Funded by a New York State Legislature grant, the new study features primary care profiles for every county and assesses primary care access statewide.
The report’s author, Mary Ford [pictured], PCDC’s Director of Evaluation and Analytics, recently discussed why policy makers and public health professionals might take note.
PCDC: Why are these findings important?
MF: Our report is the first to highlight the critical intersection between primary care access and health equity across New York State. We did this by looking simultaneously at both access measures and indicators of need for primary care. The complementary data used are important to understand the interconnected needs of communities.
Most previous analyses have examined primary care access with a singular measure, which is inadequate when capturing the complexities of accessible health care. In our report, we include five measures of access and map the locations of key primary care facilities to create a comprehensive picture of primary care access across New York.
Which of the findings surprised you?
The report identifies several compelling associations between the measures of primary care access, health status, and socioeconomic position.
For me, one that stood out was that counties with fewer primary care providers (PCPs) per 10,000 persons had increased premature mortality rates.
PCDC believes high-quality, comprehensive, and accessible primary care has the unique ability to address such determinants of health by providing preventive care and chronic disease management.
On a positive note, our report highlights how responsive many primary care providers are to the needs of their communities. For example, PCPs are more likely to accept Medicaid or have Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition in counties with higher levels of poverty, thereby increasing accessibility in low-income areas.
How does this report complement existing research about primary care access?
Our report furthers understanding of how primary care is distributed across New York State. To date, few data are available on these metrics, despite evidence that high-quality primary care is transformational.
The maps and data included in this report can be used to identify areas of New York where primary care access — both facilities and providers — may be inadequate to meet the needs of the population.
Furthermore, policy makers and public health professionals seeking to address health inequities by targeting high-need areas may refer to the included health status and socioeconomic measures for guidance.
What are some next steps on strengthening primary care in New York?
Data in this report can directly inform strategies that strengthen primary care across New York.
First, when looking to site new primary care facilities and allocate funding, we recommend taking into account measures such as PCP-to-population ratio and distribution of existing facilities.
Additionally, we recommend that providers in high-need communities continue to prioritize care models that deliver high-quality, culturally competent care, such as PCMH.