Pediatricians Needed in the Heartland

Cora Nucci, December 29, 2010

The week before Christmas, one of the happiest times of the year for families with children, a report came out of New Hampshire that, for rural families, was as sobering as a fly in the eggnog.

While much has been written about the nation's shortage of physicians, a report by researchers at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Department of Pediatrics, Dartmouth Medical School homed in on specifics: kids in the heartland are lacking pediatric care.

The study, published in Pediatrics, examined growth in the primary care physician workforcefor children and in particular focused on the geographic distribution of theprovider workforce.

It turns out that between 1996 and 2006, the general pediatrician and family physician workforces expanded by 51% and 35%, respectively, whereas the child population increased by only 9%, the report says.

But here's the clincher: The distribution of providers is terribly askew. The report says, "Undirected growth of the aggregate child physician workforcehas resulted in profound maldistribution of physician resources."

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