Access to primary care providers is a central component of health and preventive health care, and is associated with health indicators such as hospitalizations, mortality and morbidity. Geographic access—availability of a provider within a reasonable distance—is an important aspect of access, and has been identified as a major barrier to health promotion in rural areas in the United States and elsewhere.
Many parts of rural Wisconsin are currently facing rapid aging because of a double migration process: rural counties are losing younger residents to outmigration, while retiring baby boomers are moving into rural recreational areas. In 20 years, some parts of Wisconsin are projected to have median ages that are extreme for the United States. These aging populations will place high demand on local health care services.
Malia Jones, Ph.D., MPH, presents work that shows a substantial area of Wisconsin currently lacks adequate access to primary care, and that these areas tend to be older and more rural than the state as a whole. Using population projections, her team estimates these primary care shortage areas will get worse in the absence of policy supporting improved access.