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Health care workforce study shows shortage of caregivers

NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI — Of Mississippi’s 82 counties, 39 do not have a pediatrician serving the area and 49 have a designated shortage of primary care health care workers.

These are just a few facts found among a collection of information on the state’s health care workforce in the newly revamped Northeast Mississippi Area Health Education Center website.

Based at Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center, the NE MS AHEC and its major initiative, the Mississippi Center for Health Workforce, are part of a state-wide program focusing on critical health care issues.

The website at nemsahec.msstate.edu/ is designed to “keep the well-intended well informed,” said Ronald Cossman, principal investigator for the NE MS AHEC.

The data are available on the website, along with downloadable maps and spreadsheets. Cossman noted that health policy makers and health advocates may access and use the data for planning and grant writing.

“No matter how you measure health care in Mississippi, there is unmet demand and inadequate supply, and that affects the health of the state’s citizens and ultimately our workforce,” he added.

The MCHW examined the state’s health care in terms of supply of, demand for and access to health care professionals. The multiple measures present a much clearer picture as to needs and opportunities for infrastructure and delivery in Mississippi.

“Different counties and regions in the state are in need of additional practitioners or health infrastructure, but the counties and regions differ depending on the measurement that is used,” Cossman said.

Established in response to Mississippi’s shortage of highly trained health care professionals, the MCHW continually collects data about Mississippi’s workforce, analyzes current and projected conditions and needs and annually produces an assessment of the state’s health care workforce.

Cossman said the accumulated information plays a vital role in understanding the recruitment and retention of these professionals with the state’s borders.

The MCHW also focuses on issues related to the recruitment and retention of professionals to underserved areas, rural regions and populations in poverty, he noted.

Area Health Education Centers were developed by Congress in the 1970s to address an increasing shortage of health professionals. A pipeline for health care training, AHEC works to educate youth about health career opportunities, connect health professionals to communities and connect communities to better health, overall increasing the quality and availability of health care throughout the nation.

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