Rural Health Care as an Economic Engine
Rural areas across the U.S. are experiencing extremely tough economic times. As business layoffs continue, the economy of these rural communities will suffer more and more. One opportunity leaders in rural communities often overlook is health care. Rural leaders know the importance of medical facilities in providing health care but are often unaware of the economic impact and opportunities that health care has on their economic health. The overall objective of this paper is to illustrate and measure the economic impact of critical access hospitals on a medical service area, on a county and at the state level. The paper will discuss how the results can be used to enhance and expand health services at each governmental level. There are nine critical access hospital in Hawaii. Operational data, which include employment, wages and salaries, and revenue were collected from each hospital in 2008. Also, construction data, which reflects capital expenditures, were collected. Then the input-output model, using data from IMPLAN were used to measure the operational economic impact and construction impact at three government levels. These included impacts of a critical access hospital on a community (Hale Ho'ola Hamakua), impact of three critical access hospitals on Hawaii County, and impact of nine critical access hospitals on the state of Hawaii. This section will present economic impacts at each governmental level and discuss how this information can be used at each governmental level. Also included will be a discussion of the community or county engagement process, which provides the community or county leaders a format to assess health needs and gather support and input. From this process, medical services are often expanded or added and in turn, jobs are created. In summary, the provision of medical services in rural areas is critical. The economic impact is huge. Thus, if community leaders desire the provision of health services can be an economic engine. This paper shows how health research and extension professionals can assist rural leaders in enhancing the provision of health services in rural communities.
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