In the nations most segregated counties, an increase in the African-American or Hispanic population is associated with a decrease in the availability and use of surgical services, according to a new study published in the June edition of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. The reports findings also showed that a decrease in access to surgical care was combined with an increase in the use of emergency department visits in counties that had the greatest segregation.
In the most segregated counties, a mean increase of 1% in either the percentage of African-American or Hispanic population was associated with a corresponding statistically significant decrease in the number of general surgeons and of ambulatory surgical centers, the study said.
For the study, researchers used data from the 2004 version of the Area Resource File, a nationwide database of healthcare, economic and demographic information from a variety of sources, including the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Veterans Affairs, Bureau of Labor Statistics and CMS. The Area Resource File has data collected from all of the nations 3,219 counties.
This report should guide budgetary decisions and incentives by health policymakers in their bid to close the racial health disparity gap, the authors wrote, and to strive to increase access to surgical healthcare across racial lines, particularly in areas identifiable for being the most segregated.
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