TDI Study: Many Children Lack Access To Primary Care Physicians
Hanover, NH—Almost 1 million children in the U.S. live in areas (often rural) where there is no local primary care physician. Meanwhile, many urban areas have abundant primary care physicians - an average of one physician for every 140 children in some locations. This has resulted in a disparity in access to care for many children, especially those in rural areas, according to the study, "Geographic Maldistribution of Primary Care for Children," published in the January 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online Dec. 20). Scott Shipman MD, of Dartmouth Medical School and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Research, is lead author on the study.
The overall number of pediatricians and family physicians has grown dramatically, but this has proven to be an inefficient mechanism to improve children's geographic access to primary care. Other approaches, including targeted incentives to physicians, are needed to promote practice in underserved areas. Physician training should expand efforts to produce primary care physicians interested in practicing in underserved areas. Medical schools and residency programs need to identify students more likely to work in underserved areas and foster their interest and desire in helping these communities. Finally, the authors state that public funding for physician training could be leveraged to include efforts to reduce these geographic disparities.