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Resolving Healthcare Disparities in Emergency Medical Services

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Edge Contributor

American healthcare is particularly complicated. It includes different facets of local, state and federal level policies, which in turn are intertwined with healthcare protocols, Medicare and insurance policies. Disparities in healthcare are also a part of this complex situation. But if we correct these problems, we can alter healthcare disparities in a positive way.

The Current Healthcare Disparities

Americans do not receive the same types of healthcare services based on where they are in the country. For instance, medical providers in different areas may not have the same level of training, so patients may not receive adequate medical services.

A patient’s socioeconomic status, education level and the services a community is able to provide also contribute to healthcare disparities. In many instances, individuals who are poor may not have access to appropriate medical treatment because they may be uninsured or live in communities that just cannot afford decent healthcare.

Emergency Medical Services Have Their Own Disparities

Emergency medical services (EMS) also have their own healthcare disparities. Ambulances, for example, are offered in many U.S. communities, but some localities are unable to afford first responder services. NBC News noted that rural communities have been particularly affected by budget and staffing problems, and so did the New York Times.

Policy Changes for Emergency Medical Services

Emergency medical services are in a strange political situation. In many respects, EMS agencies do not have the same political infrastructure as police or fire departments. Only 11 states deem EMS to be an essential service – an issue that creates political complications.

In order to change emergency medical services for the better in the future, EMS leaders need to portray current problems to policymakers as a healthcare disparity issue. By doing so, EMS funds may be created so that EMS will become essential in all 50 states.

In our online bachelor of science in fire management program, I teach a course on fire regulation, policy and law (FSMT 410). Public policies such as the need to resolve healthcare disparities and other related topics are discussed in this type of class.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Secretary & Chair of the TEMS Committee with the International Public Safety Association and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. Prior to teaching, she worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. Passionate about the policy issues surrounding emergency management and emergency medical services, Allison often researches, writes and advocates about these issues. Allison is an emergency medical technician and holds four master’s degrees.

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