OVERCOMING THE BARRIERS TO HEALTHCARE ACCESS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
- 7 in 10 Southern California residents have had to skip out on an essential medical service at some point in their lives
- 57% say that financial assistance would greatly assist them in accessing healthcare
- 67% report logistical barriers to getting essential care
TUSTIN, Calif., July 14, 2021 – For many families across the country, healthcare took a backseat to other, perhaps more pressing needs due to the pandemic. But now, new research from non-profit community health center Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center (FTOC) highlights the barriers to healthcare access and how they were heightened during the pandemic.
A survey of Southern California residents conducted by FTOC found that 7 in 10 residents have skipped essential medical care in the past, with those numbers consistently higher among the lowest-income and non-English speaking respondents.
The barriers to care are predominantly financial and logistical, the survey found, and these barriers were present long before the pandemic. Financial barriers are prominent in Southern California, with more than 1 in 4 respondents putting off regular check-ups due to financial concerns. Moreover, a surprising 2/3rds of those who have had to skip care in the past cite a logistical concern such as an inability to get time off work or not knowing where to go for an appointment.
Community health centers like Families Together play an important role in bridging the gap in healthcare access for communities across the country, providing a myriad of affordable services and personalized care to help address essential needs.
Grisell Millan and her husband Gerardo are small business owners who took a particularly hard hit during the pandemic when clients asked them to stop coming to clean their homes during lockdown, but found help in the hands of Families Together:
“We couldn’t work during the lockdown periods. People just didn’t let us come into their homes anymore and we had no way of making a living,” Grisell said. “Families Together stepped in when we had nowhere else to go, giving us financial assistance, medical care for my husband and a referral to help treat the pain he had in his legs. We’re so grateful that they were able to provide several resources that helped us breathe a little easier.”
The survey highlights how many of the lowest-income households, who likely did not have the luxury of working from home like many higher earners had, felt the effects of the pandemic and coincidently saw their health get worse because of it. A compelling 31% of the lowest income households said their health got worse, while 38% of the highest income households said their health improved during the pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, patient attendance at community health centers such as Families Together, which mostly serves low-income and under-insured patients, has decreased during the pandemic. Even with telehealth options, the findings show that a majority of Southern California residents had to forgo routine medical appointments.
Among the most skipped health services were dentist appointments (58%) and regular doctor visits (55%), but women’s health has taken the biggest hit with 68% of women reportedly having skipped their women’s health check-ups due to the pandemic.
On the other hand, Californians are eager to get their health back on track, with nearly half of adults who put off essential care during the pandemic planning to get those services in the next year.
In response to the data, Families Together is introducing a campaign to get information about essential resources out into the communities that need it most. However, it is also calling on local and state entities to champion and support the role that community health centers play in bridging the gap in healthcare access, especially for those who were likely to be the most impacted financially by the pandemic.
Families Together committed to fighting for the underserved families in Southern California. Alexander Rossel, CEO of Families Together of Orange County says:
“It’s important to keep improving healthcare access as we start to think about life after the pandemic. The need is there and community health centers play an essential role in helping to bridge the healthcare gap. The data show that barriers to care are prominent now, more than ever, and in particular among the lower-income and non-English speaking communities. We believe that with the right tools there is a real opportunity to change this as we reopen our economy.”
Full survey data and findings can be found on Families Together of Orange County’s website here.
Families Together of Orange County conducted interviews with 615 adults 18 and older in Southern California, weighted to be regionally representative. Interviews were conducted over the phone, SMS and online panel between June 11 to June 18, 2021 using insight agency Benenson Strategy Group (BSG).
About Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center
Since 2003, Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center (FTOC) has proudly served the Orange County community with a myriad of health services while providing a welcoming, multi-lingual and patient -centered medical home to all. FTOC is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, FQHC look-alike, a member of the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers and the California Primary Care Association.
Please visit www.familiestogetheroc.org for more information on Families Together of Orange County and for the latest updates.
For interview requests and further information, please contact Cassie Rossel