Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Gray Televison spotlights health-care disparities in Appalachia and Mississippi Delta, two regions it serves

Gray Television map from HRSA.gov data, adapted by The Rural Blog; interactive version with county data is here.
The shortage of health care in rural areas is an old story, but one that always has new facets. Television stations have given it largely occasional attention; Gray Television is raising the bar with a series of reports about disparities in Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, two poor regions served by several Gray stations. The first few stories in the series have dealt with health care.

"In the Delta region, an area that stretches from Missouri to Louisiana and includes parts of eight states, more than half of its counties don’t have a pediatrician," Jill Riepenhoff, Daniela Molina, Jamie Grey, and Lee Zurik report. "The shortage of pediatricians is part of a looming national crisis: too few doctors to provide preventive care to adults, women, and children from coast to coast."

Dunklin County (Wikipedia map)
The story's object example is Dunklin County, Missouri, where the hospital closed in 2018 but Dr. Andrew Beach hung on as the only pediatrician. A banner on his office reads: “Dedicated to our patients! We are not leaving the area!” He sees 14,000 patients a year, Gray reports: "The federal government says those doctors ideally wouldn’t have more than 3,500 patients on their caseloads. Dr. Beach treats nearly five times that many children."

The report includes something unusual for a broadcast report, an interactive map showing the supply of primary-care doctors by county and indicating how short they are of recommendations. The data come from the Health Resources and Services Administration, which has a searchable database.

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