As of 2020, the percentage of women ages 18-44 who reported having a personal doctor or health care provider.
Consistent primary healthcare means ongoing, regular medical attention focused on preventing, diagnosing, and managing a person’s overall health. It involves routine check-ups, vaccinations, and timely interventions to address health concerns, promoting long-term well-being.
Put simply, developing a relationship with a healthcare provider leads to better health outcomes. While many factors affect whether or not this goal is accessible, the positive health data of consistent care cannot be denied.
There are few relationships requiring such a high level of trust and transparency as that between a patient and their physician. For women, consistent primary care is especially crucial as studies have shown that women with a primary care physician are less likely to be overdue for cervical cancer screenings .
Positive, consistent health care interactions are especially important for younger women who are more likely to become pregnant as it helps those women begin adequate prenatal care. As we know, early prenatal care greatly improves health outcomes for mother and child .
Cost is often a barrier to seeing a medical provider regularly.
Cultural incompetency in medicine has become a recognized hindrance as well. It has two core tenets: 1) the demographic breakdown of providers does not match the general population and heavily skews white and male and 2) health is impacted by a person’s cultural background, and ignoring this pushes away patients and leads to poorer health outcomes. Patients have expressed difficulty forming a relationship with providers who do not understand where they are coming from.
These barriers are especially alarming given that the U.S. population is projected to be over 50% persons of color by 2050 compounded with the high prevalence of chronic conditions in people of color .
While not traditionally thought of as a group that requires a level of culturally competent care, rural folks also benefit from care that respects their lifestyle. When assessing this population’s regular access to a clinician, it cannot be ignored that providers are disappearing from their areas. Clinics and hospitals are closing, with residents sometimes driving over an hour just to see a physician. The time commitment for “just a checkup” is itself a high hurdle to overcome . It also cannot be ignored that a high density of providers are in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas. It is likely that many of these providers have not been heavily exposed to the needs of rural communities.
The effects of SoonerCare expansion and COVID-19, both in 2021, will likely affect the presented data as more Oklahomans were and are able to afford regularly seeing a physician.
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