Date of Conferral





Health Services


Precilla Belin


Access to primary care is limited in rural communities across the United States. Evidence supports primary care as the cornerstone of healthcare. The purpose of this project was to explore community perceptions of barriers to primary care access with the aim of learning about ideas for possible interventions that could improve primary care access for Mifflin County residents. Penchansky and Thomas's model of healthcare access provided the theoretical framework for this qualitative phenomenological study. Using a community-based research approach, semistructured, open-ended telephone interviews and qualitative surveys were conducted with 26 participants, including physicians, nurses, and residents. Data were analyzed using Edward and Welch's extension of Colaizzi's 7-step method for qualitative data analysis. Key findings included perceptions that (a) primary care access is limited in Mifflin County due to inadequate health services emanating from insufficient community health centers, provider shortages, health insurance issues; (b) high cost and poor choice of services discourage residents from seeking preventative care; (c) distance from services reduce residents' ability to access primary care; (d) service problems impact the quality of care received, such as a lack of provider training in opiate addiction; and (e) providers and residents should be involved in primary care service planning since they can provide valuable information to help improve access to services. Positive social change could occur through improvement in access to primary care using a collaborative approach and community involvement, in policy formation and service planning.