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Keywords:

  • rural;
  • dentist;
  • primary care;
  • primary care physician;
  • physician assistant;
  • nurse practitioner;
  • nurse midwife;
  • health professional shortage area;
  • mapping

Abstract

Objective: This paper maps dentists, primary care physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives in rural areas and rural areas meeting criteria as underserved for primary health care. Methods: Computer-based mapping was used to localize health care provider groups by five-digit ZIP code. For each rural and each rural primary care health professional shortage area (PC-HPSA) ZIP code, the number of providers in each group was determined. The different combinations of providers were determined. Results: All providers in rural areas were present at levels substantially lower than national averages, particularly in PC-HPSA areas. Dentists were approximately equal in number to primary care physicians in rural areas and the largest group in PC-HPSAs. Approximately 75 percent of rural residents lived in ZIP code areas with dentists available. Over 5.8 million rural residents and over 50 percent of rural PC-HPSA residents had no providers available in their ZIP code areas. Conclusions: Rural areas continue to have a short supply of primary care providers and dentists. Dentists were present in many areas where primary care provider presence was absent or very low. These data, including those relating to provider co-presence, can be used to develop strategies to overcome health care access problems due to provider shortages.