Within the City of Alexandria, 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 Alexandria has a number of health resources, accessing health services proves challenging for some county residents. There is one primary care physician for every 1,500 city residents. Although there is no widely accepted optimal rate of physicians to total population, the northernmost portion of Potomac West 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 rapidly-growing Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), has 4 clinics located in Alexandria. The not-for-profit Inova Healthcare System serves the city at two locations: Inova Alexandria Hospital, a 318-bed community hospital, and Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, a 237-bed facility. Additionally, Inova Jupiter has a comprehensive HIV/AIDS clinic in the city.
Alexandria’s local public health system provides many services, including family planning; HIV/AIDS services; immunizations; refugee services; nutrition and women, infants, and children (WIC); OB/GYN; pregnancy testing; STIs; teen wellness; and tuberculosis clinics. Alexandria also supports a school-based health center at T.C. Williams High School that provides primary health care to students and their families. In addition to geography, cost may be a barrier for the 14% of Alexandria residents who are uninsured. Although this rate is on par with 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 Alexandria’s residents are generally healthy, inequities persist. Making Alexandria 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 well-being of its citizens.