Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Health Care, Medical Schools, and Economic Development

By Ranada Robinson, Senior Research Associate.  

Over the last couple of years, health care has become a major area of interest for me—not just because of ObamaCare and all of its controversy but for many personal reasons: a new child, aging parents, an aunt with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and another aunt with cancer. These life events plus the constant reminder that there are impending doctor and nurse shortages through articles such as this New York Times article and reports such as this study published recently by the Association of American Medical Colleges only reinforces to me the importance of including health care in conversations about economic development.

In weighing the competitiveness of client communities, we here at Market Street evaluate data indicators that quantify health care access, such as doctors per capita and percent of citizens who are uninsured. Health care from the demand perspective is not always clearly tied to economic development, but think about it—health outcomes affect worker productivity as well as infrastructure needs. Communities have to have healthy people to keep moving forward.

Here are three clients who are working diligently to increase health care access and meet future demand by increasing the number of homegrown doctors they produce.

Jackson, MS: The University of Mississippi Medical Center is expanding its medical school, located in my hometown of Jackson, MS with a new $63 million building that will allow for an additional 30 to 40 students per class. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones broke ground on the building earlier this month. 

Austin, TX: Slated to open in 2016, plans for a research-intensive medical school affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin and a teaching hospital are underway after voters approved a property tax increase in November. The new tax will also supplement the activities of Central Health, an entity that provides a health care safety net for the underserved, as well as go toward medical school patient services.

Joplin, MO: Still in the trenches of their quest for a medical school, Joplin stakeholders have built a strong case for locating a medical school in the region and pitched it to an unnamed university this month. Joplin, an interesting place to watch as it has overcome the odds to restore what a 2011 tornado took from them, already has a strong health care foundation, and a medical school would be a welcome and fruitful addition. 

Health care needs will continue to grow over the coming years—is your community prepared?