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Annual UNC-CH study shows state gaining health providers, but big imbalances remain

CHAPEL HILL - Almost everything you want to know about the supply of doctors, nurses, dentists and other health-care providers in every North Carolina county - plus a lot you probably never thought to ask - appear in a new booklet published by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Most health professions are increasing faster than the state population, research indicates.

The North Carolina Health Professions 1998 Data Book, compiled by Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research staff, shows the state's population grew by 1.6 percent between 1997 and 1998. During the same period, however, the number of doctors increased by 5.4 percent, chiropractors by 6.2 percent and registered nurses by 3.4 percent. The number of dentists climbed by 2 percent, nurse practitioners by 19.2 percent, physician assistants by 12.3 percent and physical therapists by 5.8 percent. Almost all other health professions grew as well.

"Given North Carolina's rapid population growth during the last decade, it is especially significant that the increase in doctors, dentists, nurses and other health-care providers outpaced the increase in population," said Michael Pirani, director of the N.C. Health Professions Data System at the Sheps Center.

"It's also encouraging that the increase in health-care providers was not restricted to North Carolina's biggest cities," Pirani said. "For example, the supply of primary-care physicians and nurse practitioners grew at the highest rate in large, remote rural towns, and the greatest rate of increase in physician assistants was in remote rural counties. This growth in supply in rural areas is one step in ensuring access to health care for all North Carolina residents."

Still, disparities remain, he said.

Jones, Camden, Hyde and Tyrrell counties had no dentists in 1998 while Bertie, Currituck and Gates counties each had one. Orange County enjoyed one dentist for ever
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Contact: David Williamson
David_Williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
5-Oct-1999


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