Local Health Departments' Mission to the Uninsured

Keane, Christopher; Marx, John; Ricci, Edmund
April 2003
Journal of Public Health Policy;2003, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p130
Academic Journal
It is often maintained that local health departments (LHDs) should not directly provide personal health services. However, our nationally representative sample revealed that most LHD directors (87%) believed LHDs must directly provide these services, primarily because they perceived a high level of unmet need among the uninsured. While only a minority believed LHDs should focus exclusively on the core functions, this proportion rose dramatically when we asked directors to assume that there were no uninsured people. Directors who perceived a high level of unmet need among the uninsured in their jurisdictions were much less likely to believe that LHDs should exclusively focus on the core functions. In theory, LHDs have a unique responsibility for assuring that the uninsured and vulnerable have access to personal health services. However, a majority of directors (67%) acknowledged that they have no enforceable means of assuring access to services the health department did not directly provide.


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