The Spatial Association Between Federally Qualified Health Centers and County-Level Reported Sexually Transmitted Infections: A Spatial Regression Approach

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Abstract

Background

The number of categorical sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics is declining in the United States. Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) have the potential to supplement the needed sexually transmitted infection (STI) services. In this study, we describe the spatial distribution of FQHC sites and determine if reported county-level nonviral STI morbidity were associated with having FQHC(s) using spatial regression techniques.

Methods

We extracted map data from the Health Resources and Services Administration data warehouse on FQHCs (ie, geocoded health care service delivery [HCSD] sites) and extracted county-level data on the reported rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and, primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis (2008–2012) from surveillance data. A 3-equation seemingly unrelated regression estimation procedure (with a spatial regression specification that controlled for county-level multiyear (2008–2012) demographic and socioeconomic factors) was used to determine the association between reported county-level STI morbidity and HCSD sites.

Results

Counties with HCSD sites had higher STI, poverty, unemployment, and violent crime rates than counties with no HCSD sites (P < 0.05). The number of HCSD sites was associated (P < 0.01) with increases in the temporally smoothed rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and P&S syphilis, but there was no significant association between the number of HCSD per 100,000 population and reported STI rates.

Conclusions

There is a positive association between STI morbidity and the number of HCSD sites; however, this association does not exist when adjusting by population size. Further work may determine the extent to which HCSD sites can meet unmet needs for safety net STI services.

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