Researchers at Western University are using geography to better understand access to primary care in London, Ontario, and have shown that accessibility for vulnerable populations is quite good in the city, while access along linguistic lines is less certain.
The team led by Jason Gilliland, PhD, Professor in the Faculty of Social Science and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western, looked at accessibility to a primary care provider, either a family doctor or nurse practitioner based on distribution and geographical proximity. They focused on accessibility for vulnerable populations, specifically seniors, lone-parents, and low-income households.
“We look at vulnerable populations specifically because health inequalities exist across Canada despite there being a universal health care system, and those inequalities are experienced to a greater extent for vulnerable populations,” said Gilliland.
What the team found is that accessibility to a primary care provider was actually significantly greater in areas where there was a higher proportion of low-income households, seniors and lone-parents. Gilliland takes that as a sign that that the current system in London is working well. He says what the system strives for is equity, not equality.
“There should be greater access for populations that have a higher need,” he said. “A low-income household, for example, is less likely to own a vehicle than a high-income household, and a senior is less likely to drive, so we want accessibility along geographic lines to be greater where low-income and senior populations live. That’s why geography matters.”
The team also analyzed the data along linguistic lines, aiming to better understand a patient’s access to a provider who spoke their native language. They looked specifically at French, Arabic and Spanish and determined that the Spanish-speaking households in London had slightly below-average accessibility to a provider who speaks Spanish.
“We hope that this data will help inform different strategies to improve accessibility for patients,” said Gilliland. “There are a lot of factors at play, but we hope this data will help the policy-makers, or even physicians who are looking to locate in a new area.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Crystal Mackay, Media Relations Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, t. 519.661.2111 ext. 80387, c. 519.933.5944, firstname.lastname@example.org @CrystalMackay
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ABOUT THE SCHULICH SCHOOL OF MEDICINE & DENTISTRY
The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University is one of Canada’s preeminent medical and dental schools. Established in 1881, it was one of the founding schools of Western University and is known for being the birthplace of family medicine in Canada. For more than 130 years, the School has demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence and a passion for scientific discovery.