USC and DHEC Examine South Carolina’s Transition of Clinical Services

The University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) have been working together to examine South Carolina’s transition of clinical services from health departments to primary care providers. In collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation the researchers examined children’s use of Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis of Treatment services over a 15-year time period where health departments began to transition health care to leveraging community provider resources.

Dr. Nathan Hale, Michael Smith, James Hardin and Amy Brock-Martin, all from the Arnold School of Public Health or DHEC, found that the impact of this transition varied greatly between urban and rural communities. Communities that have adequate community-based primary care capacity had only a marginal impact when switching from health departments to primary care providers. Children’s access to the services improved over the 15-year period in urban communities. In the contrary, rural and underserved communities, children’s access to care deteriorated, revealing a greater reliance on health departments as direct providers of clinical services.

The findings in this research are published in the American Journal of Public Health and lend to potential larger discussion about the organization and delivery of public health services. The study highlights the persistent vulnerabilities in access to important health services in communities regardless of insurance.

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