Physician distribution across China’s cities: regional variations

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Background: Distribution of physicians is a key component of access to health care. Although there is extensive research on urban-rural disparities in physician distribution, limited attention has been directed to the heterogeneity across urban areas. This research depicts variations in physician density across over 600 cities in the context of China’s rapid urbanization. Methods: Data came from National Census Surveys and China statistical yearbooks, 2000–2003, and 2010–2013. Cities were characterized in terms of not only administrative level but also geographic regions and urban agglomerations. We analyzed variations in physician supply by applying generalized estimating equations with an ordinal logistic linking function. Results: Although overall physician density increased between 2003 and 2013, with population and socioeconomic attributes adjusted, physician density declined in urban China. On average, urban districts had a higher physician density than county-level cities, but there were regional variations. Cities in urban agglomerations and those outsides did not differ in physician density. Conclusion: Despite the reduced inequality between 2003 and 2013, the growth in physician density did not appear to be commensurate with the changes in population health demand. Assessment in physician distribution needs to take into account heterogeneity in population and socioeconomic characteristics.




Yu, X., Zhang, W., & Liang, J. (2021). Physician distribution across China’s cities: regional variations. International Journal for Equity in Health, 20(1).

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