The findings of a new study authored by Dr. Scott Shipman (‘91) and three of his colleagues at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice seem to contradict themselves. On one hand, Shipman’s study found that millions of American children lack adequate access to pediatricians and family physicians. On the other, it found that there are more than enough doctors to treat every American kid.
The problem isn’t in the supply of physicians. “Between 1996 and 2006, the general pediatrician and family physician workforces expanded by 51 percent and 35 percent respectively, whereas the child population increased by only nine percent,” Shipman and his colleagues wrote.
The problem lies in where those physicians choose to live and work. His study found that too many of those graduating pediatricians and family physicians are locating where supply is already high, while too few are locating where the need is considerably greater.
The reasons for this uneven distribution are largely economic. Underserved areas, the study found, tend to be more rural and less wealthy than areas with higher densities of child physicians.
Shipman supports efforts to even out the distribution of child physicians across the country. Without formal interventions to foster that movement, “I worry that (child physician mal-distribution) could get worse,” Shipman told The Associated Press.
Click here to see Shipman's study in the journal Pediatrics.
Click here to see an NPR report on Shipman's findings.