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Health Professional Shortage Areas Defined and Summarized

We begin our review of greatest healthcare infrastructure needs in Mississippi with the federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). Note that HPSA designations are constantlybeing changed in response to changes in health care infrastructure in the county, population or health care facility. Always refer to the official HPSA list at: in order to confirm an up-to-date designation.

Three doctors talkingThe calculations for the three categories (primary care, dental and mental health) incorporate the ratio of population-to-provider, poverty rate and travel distance/time to nearest accessible source of care. Individual categories of care also incorporate addition specific factors. Those facilities/geographies/populations with a score above zero are deemed a “designated shortage area. The designation is made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The department is required to update the HPSA list annually and a HPSA can be “de-listed.” A HPSA can be based on facilities, geography, or population.



  • a public or private medical facility
  • a health center or rural health clinic
  • a federal or state correctional facility


  • an entire county
  • a specified census tract


  • a specified population sub-group (e.g., migrant farmer workers, low income, elderly or federally recognized Native American Tribes)

Designation as a HPSA affects incentives to both health care professionals and health care facilities. For a detailed listing see our webpage “Programs Using HPSA Designation.”

In the state of Mississippi there are currently 106 locations, populations or facilities that are designed as a Health Professional Shortage Area for Primary Care (which includes family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology). A total of 49 counties are designed HPSAs. Likewise, 104 designations identify HPSAs for dental care, of which 55 are counties. There are only 40 designations of HPSAs for mental health care and zero counties are designated.

This shortage of health professionals means that between 1.6 million (primary care) and 2.1 million (mental health) of Mississippi’s residents are within a designated area, population or facility. Of that, between 900,000 (primary care) and 1.1 million (mental health) are “underserved” (assuming a ratio of 2,000 residents per 1 provider).

In order to either eliminate the HPSA designation, or achieve a ratio of 10,000 residents to 1 practitioner, it would require between 159 and 430 new primary care providers, 190 to 300 dental care providers and 47 to 113 mental health providers in the state of Mississippi.

Return to Introduction of Healthcare Infrastructure Shortage Areas

“How we understate access to primary care in Mississippi”

Last updated: 8/24/2015