Increased Travel Time to Trauma Centers in 2007

Increased distance has mainly affected African-Americans, uninsured, poor, those in rural areas

THURSDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Geographic access to trauma centers in the United States declined from 2001 to 2007, especially in communities with higher numbers of poor, uninsured, African-American residents, and individuals living in rural areas, according to a study published in the October issue of Health Affairs.

Renee Yuen-Jan Hsia, M.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and Yu-Chu Shen, Ph.D., from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., investigated how driving time between ZIP code areas in the United States and the nearest trauma centers changed nationwide from 2001 to 2007.

The investigators found that 69 million Americans, comprising 24 percent of the U.S. population, traveled farther to the nearest trauma center in 2007 than they did in 2001, with nearly 16 million Americans travelling an extra 30 minutes or more. Communities which were more likely to be affected were those which had disproportionately high numbers of African-American residents, uninsured individuals, poor people, and individuals living in rural areas.

"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," the authors write.

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