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A Study on the Relation among Primary Care Professionals Serving the Disadvantaged Community, Socioeconomic Status, and Adverse Health Outcome

Authors: Chau-Kuang Chen, Jr., Juanita Buford, Colette Davis, Raisha Allen, John Hughes, James Tyus, Dexter Samuels


During the post-Civil War era, the city of Nashville, Tennessee, had the highest mortality rate in the United States. The elevated death and disease rates among former slaves were attributable to lack of quality healthcare. To address the paucity of healthcare services, Meharry Medical College, an institution with the mission of educating minority professionals and serving the underserved population, was established in 1876. Purpose: The social ecological framework and partial least squares (PLS) path modeling were used to quantify the impact of socioeconomic status and adverse health outcome on primary care professionals serving the disadvantaged community. Thus, the study results could demonstrate the accomplishment of the College’s mission of training primary care professionals to serve in underserved areas. Methods: Various statistical methods were used to analyze alumni data from 1975 – 2013. K-means cluster analysis was utilized to identify individual medical and dental graduates in the cluster groups of the practice communities (Disadvantaged or Non-disadvantaged Communities). Discriminant analysis was implemented to verify the classification accuracy of cluster analysis. The independent t-test was performed to detect the significant mean differences of respective clustering and criterion variables. Chi-square test was used to test if the proportions of primary care and non-primary care specialists are consistent with those of medical and dental graduates practicing in the designated community clusters. Finally, the PLS path model was constructed to explore the construct validity of analytic model by providing the magnitude effects of socioeconomic status and adverse health outcome on primary care professionals serving the disadvantaged community. Results: Approximately 83% (3,192/3,864) of Meharry Medical College’s medical and dental graduates from 1975 to 2013 were practicing in disadvantaged communities. Independent t-test confirmed the content validity of the cluster analysis model. Also, the PLS path modeling demonstrated that alumni served as primary care professionals in communities with significantly lower socioeconomic status and higher adverse health outcome (p < .001). The PLS path modeling exhibited the meaningful interrelation between primary care professionals practicing communities and surrounding environments (socioeconomic statues and adverse health outcome), which yielded model reliability, validity, and applicability. Conclusion: This study applied social ecological theory and analytic modeling approaches to assess the attainment of Meharry Medical College’s mission of training primary care professionals to serve in underserved areas, particularly in communities with low socioeconomic status and high rates of adverse health outcomes. In summary, the majority of medical and dental graduates from Meharry Medical College provided primary care services to disadvantaged communities with low socioeconomic status and high adverse health outcome, which demonstrated that Meharry Medical College has fulfilled its mission. The high reliability, validity, and applicability of this model imply that it could be replicated for comparable universities and colleges elsewhere.

Keywords: Primary Care, disadvantaged community, PLS path modeling, K-means Cluster Analysis

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