Health Care Deserts: Identifying Areas of Limited Access in Washington State

Authors: Zachary R. Becker*, Eastern Washington University, Jason Y. Scully, Eastern Washington University , Margo Hill, Eastern Washington University, Dick G. Winchell, Eastern Washington University, Richard A. Rolland, Rolland Associates
Topics: Transportation Geography, Rural Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: health, health care, transportation, gis
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Health disparities among both rural and American Indian (AI) populations have been well documented, with both communities experiencing significantly lower health outcomes than urban populations. One of the possible factors affecting negative health outcomes is limited access to healthcare resources. Our research introduces the concept of “healthcare deserts” to describe the gap in healthcare access between urban, rural and AI populations located within Washington State. Using Geographic Information Systems, we identified the shortest network route from each individual parcel found within Washington State, excluding Whitman County, to the nearest hospital. We focus on proximity to hospitals based on the following: (1) their ability to provide specialty services for observed and documented chronic heath disparities in rural and AI populations; (2) the universal need for emergency medical care; and (3) concerns of equality of access to healthcare. Locations of the 101 hospital came from the Washington State Department of Health and the parcel data was obtained from the Washington State Parcel Database.

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