We know that emergency vehicles take longer to get to DC residents who live east of the Anacostia River, but how does where people live in DC affect their access to non-emergency medical care? Fewer clinics, pharmacies, and vaccine locations east of the Anacostia River means access to non-emergency medical care is more difficult there as well.

Photo by Jared Hansen on Flickr.

Health clinics

Let’s say you come down with the flu. Your first stop may be a clinic. Since 2010 many urgent care clinics, like MedStar PromptCare, and retail clinics, like CVS Minute Clinic, have opened across DC. These walk-in clinics provide immediate care for injuries and illnesses that don’t require an emergency room visit, such as your flu-like symptoms, but also infections, sprains, and minor wounds.

DC’s eight wards. Image from the DC Office of Planning.

Retail clinics are staffed by nurses with a more limited range of services, while urgent care clinics have doctors who can provide more complex treatment, like stitches.

DC is split up geographically into eight wards, each of which has a representative on the DC Council.

No urgent care or retail clinics have opened in Wards 4 or 8 since 2010, and nearly 70% of all DC’s clinics are in Wards 2 and 3.

All graphs by the author.

This gap is partially filled by community health centers. Community health centers receive federal funding to provide primary care to underserved populations. One such clinic, Unity Health Care, operates a community health centers in all wards except 2, 3, and 4, with varying degrees of walk-in services.


Once you’ve been diagnosed by a clinic with the flu, your next trip is probably to the pharmacy. This may be more difficult east of the Anacostia; Wards 7 and 8 have the fewest pharmacies of any ward. Combined, they have a total of 18 pharmacies. This is less than Wards 2, 3, and 6 individually, and equal to the number of pharmacies in Ward 1.

Places to get vaccines

Hopefully you won’t get the flu at all because you thought ahead and received a flu shot— and you were able to actually get the shot. Vaccine locations are another area of disparate care across the District.

There are fewer vaccine locations east of the Anacostia, including both Wards 7 and 8, than any other individual Ward.

For this post, I got pharmacy locations through a FOIA request to the DC Department of Health; I didn’t include pharmacies located in hospitals. Vaccine and clinic data came from the DC Open Data portal, as well as www.urgentcarelocations.com. I verified the data through internet searches and phone calls. You can find complete code for this on my github page.