Within Arlington County, there are significant disparities in health amongst people of different races, ethnicities, and incomes. These differences can be partially attributed to social determinants of health, which, according to the World Health Organization, are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age.
Although Arlington has a number of health resources, accessing health services proves challenging for some county residents. There is one primary care physician for every 1,360 county residents. These resources are not evenly spread, however. Although there is no widely accepted optimal rate of physicians to total population, a portion of southern Arlington between Nauck and Aurora Highlands has been designated by HRSA as a medically underserved area, meaning it contains fewer than 1 physician for every 3,500 residents. Neighborhood Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center, has a clinic located within the county, as well as facilities in neighboring Alexandria that serve Arlington residents. The Arlington Free Clinic, a non-profit charitable clinic, and the Arlington Pediatric Center, a part of the Virginia Hospital Center System, also serve Arlington’s low-income uninsured residents.
Virginia Hospital Center, a 350-bed, not-for-profit teaching facility, is the main hospital serving Arlington. Additionally, there are many urgent care centers located within the county, and Arlington’s Department of Health provides immunizations, family planning, and services for maternity; dental; tuberculosis; HIV, STIs, and AIDS drug assistance; teens; women, infants and children (WIC); and refugees.
In addition to geography, cost may be a barrier for the 10% of Arlington residents who are uninsured. Although this rate is lower than Virginia’s average of 14%, it remains higher than the averages of neighboring West Virginia (8%), Washington, DC (4%) and Maryland (7%), where Medicaid was expanded. Those without insurance or resources to pay for care rely on safety-net health care clinics for primary health care services.
Although Arlington County is one of the healthiest in Virginia, inequities amongst its residents persist. Making Arlington a healthier place for all to live requires not only expanding wellness initiatives and access to quality healthcare, but also addressing the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens.