How Transportation Access Creates Barriers to Health

Limited or unreliable transportation access can pose numerous barriers to health by making it harder for patients to attend health appointments or receive medical attention. According to the American Hospital Association, 3.6 million people do not receive medical care due to transportation issues every year.

This can have significant consequences. For example, someone with a chronic illness who misses a check-in appointment could miss crucial health coaching or even important health metrics. Of course, this can worsen health outcomes.

Fortunately, the healthcare industry is exploring various solutions for this issue. Non-emergency medical transportation and even rideshare companies have become key collaborators. Services like these go a long way to improving patients’ access to reliable transportation for health appointments.

Social determinants of health are the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age that shape health. They can create numerous barriers to health when a person lacks access to basic needs such as:

  • Housing
  • Nutrition
  • Education
  • Social support
  • Healthcare services

Naturally, these factors, in addition to genetics, lifestyle, policies, systems, and environments, can negatively affect health equity on the personal and community level.

This article is part of a four-part series on specific factors that limit access to healthcare for many people in Shawnee County. This post explores how income disparities affect county residents and how Stormont Vail Health strives to help individuals receive quality care despite transportation challenges.

How Stormont Vail Helps Overcome Barriers to Health Care Due to Transportation Access

The mission of Stormont Vail Health is “working together to improve the health of the community.” We do our part by studying how various barriers limit access to healthcare. In Shawnee County, the most common obstacles include:

  • Income
  • Racial bias
  • Food insecurity
  • Access to transportation

Of course, addressing social determinants of health is a complex, challenging, and long-term process. Additionally, it calls for cross-organizational cooperation to create a collective framework. However, we’re hopeful that We Together will eventually make a difference.

Stormont Vail Care Line

The Stormont Vail Foundation Care Line helps patients and their families with needs typically not covered by insurance, such as:

  • Clothing
  • Prescriptions
  • Transportation
  • Temporary lodging
  • Durable medical equipment

This resource is available to eligible recipients who have exhausted all other personal, community, and public resources. Contact the Stormont Vail Health Foundation at (785) 354-6851 to learn more about the Care Line.

Stormont Vail Health Mobile Primary Care Clinic

The Stormont Vail Health Mobile Clinic delivers much-needed health care to Topeka neighborhoods lacking readily accessible health services. The mobile primary care clinic offers the same benefits a primary care office provides, including:

  • Lab work
  • Immunizations
  • Well-child visits
  • Annual physicals
  • Diabetes check-ins
  • Specialty care referrals
  • Preventative/wellness care

The 37-foot-long clinic is ADA-accessible, and bilingual team members are available. Patients can call (785) 270-4440 to schedule appointments, though we welcome walk-ins as time allows.

Better Transportation Access & Fewer Barriers to Health Benefits Everyone

Social determinants of health connect. When one need goes unmet, more problems can occur in other areas, further limiting access to healthcare. For this reason, policymakers in healthcare and leadership should address changes that capture multiple social determinants of health.

Addressing the social determinants and barriers to community health is complex, and change will take time. These efforts require us to look beyond individual or organizational strategies and priorities to build a cooperative framework addressing ongoing inequities to create greater equity now and in the future.

  • American Hospital Association. (2017). Social determinants of health series: Transportation and the role of hospitals | AHA. American Hospital Association.
  • Census profile: Topeka Public Schools Unified School District 501, KS. (n.d.). Census Reporter.
  • PatientEngagementHIT. (2021, February 1). Top Social Determinants of Health Barring Patient Care Access. PatientEngagementHIT.
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