Rising Closures of Hospital Trauma Centers Disproportionately Burden Vulnerable Populations

Health Affairs
Vol. 30, No. 10
October 2011
Hsia, R. and Shen, Y.
pp. 1912-1920

Closures of hospital trauma centers have accelerated since 2001. These closures may disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities. We evaluate how driving time between ZIP code areas and the nearest trauma centers—a proxy for access, given the time-sensitive nature of trauma care—changed nationwide during 2001–07. By 2007, sixty-nine million Americans (24 percent of the population) had to travel farther to the nearest trauma center than they did in 2001, and almost sixteen million people had to travel an additional thirty minutes or more. Communities with disproportionately high numbers of African American residents, uninsured people, and people living in poverty, as well as people living in rural areas, were more likely than others to be thus affected. Because mortality from traumatic injuries has also worsened for these vulnerable populations, policy makers should learn more about the possible connections—and consider such measures as paying trauma centers serving these communities higher amounts for treatment of injuries.

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