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Pediatricians are plentiful, but not in poorer states

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- America's children have many more pediatricians available to treat them today than they did 25 years ago, a new study finds, but the doctors aren't always where the children are. The wealthier the state, the more pediatricians there are for that state's children and the reverse is true for kids in poorer states.

And with a majority of parents choosing a pediatrician rather than a family doctor for their children's general primary care, and more children seeing specially trained pediatric specialists for diseases such as asthma, diabetes and cancer, the new findings have major implications for access to care among children in poorer states.

In a new paper published in the June issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, a team led by a University of Michigan Health System researcher reports that the number of pediatricians in the United States rose by 140 percent between 1978 and 2000, while the number of children ages 14 and under rose more slowly. As a result, the number of pediatricians per 100,000 children aged 14 and younger more than doubled in that period, from 49.8 to 106.2 pediatricians.

"American children have greater access to pediatricians and pediatric sub-specialists than ever before," says Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H., the U-M pediatrician who led the study for the research advisory committee of the American Board of Pediatrics. "The demand for care is there, as we've shown in previous research, and it appears that the growing number of physicians is better at meeting that demand."

But when the researchers mapped the number of pediatricians per 100,000 children in each state, they noticed a stark trend: much higher concentrations, as many as 165 pediatricians per 100,000 children in some states, and concentrations as low as 28 pediatricians per 100,000 children in others.

Then, they compared those concentrations with each state's personal per capita income, in constant dollars. In 1980, they found, th
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
2-Jul-2004


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