UNR Med releases 2019 Nevada Rural and Frontier Health Data Book

Data guides policymakers on Nevada’s health care resources, spurs funding for health care jobs in the Silver State

2019 Nevada Rural and Frontier Health Data Book authors

The 2019 Nevada Rural and Frontier Health Data Book authors, from left to right: co-author John Packham, Ph.D., associate dean, Laima Etchegoyhen, MPH, outreach and technical assistance coordinator, lead author Tabor Griswold, Ph.D., director, Health Workforce Research, Victoria Young, graduate research assistant, and Jordan Friend, MPH, executive assistant, Office of Statewide Initiatives. UNR Med photo by Brin Reynolds.

Over 2 million Nevadans, or 67.3 percent of the state's population, live in a federally designated primary health care physician shortage area. And over 80 percent of Nevada’s rural and frontier population live in health care shortage areas, according to new data from the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) 2019 Nevada Rural and Frontier Health Data Book.

The publication documents the diverse status of key health and health care metrics across rural and frontier counties of Nevada, including resident population, economy, social environment, population health, health workforce and health care delivery systems. In its ninth edition, the data book is a statewide resource to for state government executives and legislative branch policymakers reporting health care workforce needs of rural versus urban areas.

“Rural and frontier Nevada currently has 116 primary care physicians. Due to the current population and anticipated growth, closer to 167 primary care physicians is the number needed to be average with the rest of the country,” says lead author Tabor Griswold, Ph.D., director, Health Workforce Research, for the Office of Statewide Initiatives (OSI) at UNR Med.

The report is helping inform the work of the Governor’s Graduate Medical Education Task Force which is providing funding for Graduate Medical Education (GME) in order to grow Nevada’s physician workforce by attracting, educating, and retaining more physicians for Nevada. An example is the new UNR Med Elko Family Medicine Residency Program which currently includes four residents and will expand to six residents in July 2019. It is anticipated that six residents will serve the needs of approximately 6,000 Elko patients.

“The data book is a useful guide for policymakers attempting to target scarce health care resources to communities throughout Nevada,” says co-author John Packham, Ph.D., associate dean of OSI. “It documents important differences in demographic, economic, and social characteristics of rural versus urban areas of Nevada – differences which are driving greater demand for health care in rural communities whose residents are typically older, sicker, and poorer than their urban counterparts.”

Highlights of the latest data book include:

  • 16 of 17 counties in Nevada have a primary care health professional shortage, including all 14 rural and frontier counties of the state.
  • Only three out of 239 Nevada psychiatrists live in a rural or frontier county as of 2018.
  • 13.1 percent of Nevadans under the age of 65 are uninsured.
  • Approximately 11.1 percent of rural and frontier Nevada residents are uninsured.
  • Between 2013 and 2018, Nevada Medicaid enrollment has increased by 256,953 or 64.3 percent, including enrollment growth of 18,229 (55.6 percent) in rural and frontier counties.

“UNR Med is committed to expanding health care access to northern, rural and frontier Nevada, providing exceptional care for our communities and easing Nevada's physician shortage,” said UNR Med Dean Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D. “We are extremely pleased to be expanding our medical training and clinical care reach as we train future doctors.”

The School of Medicine is commemorating five decades of excellence in medical education that has resulted in training more than 3,500 physicians with approximately 40 percent practicing in Nevada. March 25, 2019 will mark the 50 year anniversary of UNR Med, Nevada’s first public medical school.

The 2019 Nevada Rural and Frontier Health Data Book is available online at med.unr.edu/statewide/reports/data-book-2019. To request a hard copy of the data book, contact Jordan Friend at jbfriend@unr.med.unr.


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The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.