Kristina Wharton Analyzes the Health of the Population Using FQHCs

Patients benefiting from federally qualified health centers tend to be sicker than the general population, but there are also disparities by state, explained M. Kristina Wharton, MPH, of the Department of Global Health Management and Policy at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

How does the health of the population using federally qualified health centers differ from the general population?
Sicker, mostly because of the designated medically underserved requirement of the health centers because they are in areas where people haven’t had access to care or are marginalized by their situation in public housing or they are homeless or they are a migrant farm worker or just somebody who doesn’t have health insurance and probably hasn’t had health insurance their whole life so they are on the whole a sicker population and have other greater socioeconomic and social determinant factors going into their healthcare besides their access to insurance which is also very important. This needs to be considered as it straps health centers with a lot of burden and responsibility, and I think plays a very important role in our country’s health care system.

Have you found disparities across the country in the patients being served by federally qualified health centers?
Certainly, in different states, it looks very different. In certain states, especially North Carolina, there is a large migrant farm population. In Southern California, that would be the same. So, even in the same state these health centers might vary a lot depending on what the patients need and what sort of programs they are running. In terms of access, we compare Medicaid expansion states and non-Medicaid expansion states and did various tests to see how health centers were different in different resource settings. And they are and their budgets are different and there’s a bigger proportion of HRSA programs in states that more resourced and have greater access to care and some of those states that have more health centers for people who don’t have health insurance.
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