Arkansas is a leader among states in health care coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), having the greatest percent reduction in its uninsured population compared with all other states in the country. Extending opportunities for coverage to low-income Arkansans is a major step toward improving access to the health care system, but the state must take additional measures to ensure a healthier Arkansas. Among these important measures is a focus on enhancing the state’s health care workforce. In response to this need, the state engaged in comprehensive workforce strategic planning beginning in 2011, which led to the state’s first health workforce strategic plan entitled Arkansas Health Workforce Strategic Plan: A Roadmap to Change. Since the strategic plan was published in 2012, the state has made meaningful progress toward meeting the plan’s goals. Although the development of new health profession schools was not among the recommendations of the strategic plan, two new osteopathic medical schools have been proposed as a means to address health workforce challenges.
This issue brief will explore the state’s progress toward addressing health workforce shortages, the emergence of plans for two osteopathic medical schools in Arkansas, the education and training requirements for the doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), and the status of clinical training positions for physicians in the state.