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Improving access to healthcare by improving transportation options

Holland Michigan photo by Dan Burden
Photo by Dan Burden

Yesterday we noted transportation’s impact on health care costs, and how expanding access to public transportation and investing more money in complete streets safe for walking and biking can improve overall health and lower healthcare costs.

At the same time, we should remember that having transportation options and the ability to easily get where you need to go have a huge impact on whether or not you receive care. Folks who can’t get to the doctor or who must wait on rides from family and friends are more likely to stay sick.

A study of over 1,059 households in 12 western North Carolina counties tests the relationship between transportation options and healthcare utilization while adjusting for the effects of personal characteristics, health characteristics, and distance. The report found that people with reliable access to healthcare visited their doctor 2.29 times more frequently for serious illness and 1.92 times more frequently for regular checkups than those who did not.

The ability to reliably and affordably make it to doctor’s visits or healthcare appointments is also a matter of transportation equity. Minorities, households in rural areas, the disabled, and low-income Americans face even greater hurdles because many cannot drive and public transportation is often unavailable, inaccessible or unreliable. (Not to mention public transportation, paratransit or dial-a-ride programs being cut left and right)

We already know Americans are tired of being stuck in traffic and are clamoring for more options for getting around. But they are also demanding prevention as a top health care reform priority, and overwhelmingly support increasing funding for prevention programs to reduce disease and keep people healthy.

Meeting the health care needs of all Americans will require funding infrastructure projects that can create more opportunities for physical activity. The healthcare bill Congress is currently working on is just another opportuniy to demand that transportation options and access issues are more broadly included in the debate. It is not just the cost of care, but the ability to access that care that’s proven to reduce hospitalization rates for chronic conditions.

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  1. Beata Bujalska

    8 years ago

    Accessibility through better transportation – often overlooked in the health care discussions. Accessibility to services usually centers on the financial ability to cover treatments, and something that has been central to the debate, but focusing on physical accessibility really hits the transportation-health care nail on the head.

  2. Hernand Paler

    8 years ago

    Medicaid Patients in Houston, Texas are mostly left behind or pick-up too late. Doctor Offices, Security Personnel in the Buildings are complaining. MEDICAID Medical Transportation has only one contractor and have it sub-contract with different smaller transportation company. There is no compitition. If we could only open the contract to all that meets and qualify the standard of MEDICAID then transportation company will compete to serve in its highest level of performance. I hope TEXAS would change the system in the near future to improve the level of service that our MEDICAID patients are getting. The government is paying this ONE BIG COMPANY a lot of money to do the job, but they are passing the service to smaller company and paying them less.
    I DO HOPE THE RIGHT PERSON TO ACT COULD READ MY CONCERN
    THANK YOU
    Hernand Paler

  3. Andrew Bostrom

    8 years ago

    I would like to affirm the reality described above. I am a student nurse currently doing a community health rotation at a community center in Detroit, Michigan, a city notorious for its lack of public transit. Long before the car companies were on life support, they dismantled the extensive trolley system that innervated this city (a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) It has repeatedly been the case that the transportation company contracted by Medicaid to pick up my patients has failed to show up, and then denied that they failed to do so. I have waited at the curb with my patients, as the times for both pick-ups and then the doctor’s appointments have come and gone, and the rides did not show up. When I have called to ask why a car did not come, I was told that the car did come, and no one was there. Even when preventive health services are available, therefore, they are often inaccessible to those who need them most. I am not saying anything new here, I know, but feel I must bear witness.