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Inequities Seen in Children's Physicians in the United States

Study cites 'profound maldistribution' of general pediatricians, family physicians across nation

MONDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Though the primary care physician work force for children grew substantially in a recent 10-year period, the physicians specializing in children's health aren't equitably distributed across the United States, according to research published online Dec. 20 in Pediatrics.

Scott A. Shipman, M.D., M.P.H., of Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., and colleagues analyzed 1996 and 2006 data from the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile, focusing on general pediatricians and family physicians aged 26 to 65. These doctors were categorized as "child physicians."

The researchers found that, between these years, the number of general pediatricians increased by 51 percent and the number of family physicians increased by 35 percent; meanwhile, the child population increased by 9 percent. In 2006, nearly a million children lived in areas without a local child physician, 15 million lived in areas with more than 4,400 children per child physician, and nearly 15 million lived in markets with fewer than 710 children per child physician.

"Undirected growth of the aggregate child physician work force has resulted in profound maldistribution of physician resources. Accountability for public funding of physician training should include efforts to develop, to use, and to evaluate policies aimed at reducing disparities in geographic access to primary care physicians for children," the authors write.

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