Demographic Factors Associated With Physician Staffing in Rural Areas: The Experience of the National Health Service Corps

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To determine which demographic factors favor rural communities obtaining physicians, county characteristics of National Health Service Corps sites are analyzed. Through the use of a difference of means test, sites which were staffed at least once are compared with sites which were never able to obtain physicians. Since a major portion of the sites never staffed were located in the Southeast, the effect of [southeast location] as a separate, binary variable is considered. Five factors related to income, employment and education significantly (p < 0.01) distinguish the staffed from the “never-staffed” sites. A function derived from discriminant analysis correctly classifies more than 70 per cent of the sites as staffed or never-staffed; inclusion of the southeast variable increases the number of correctly classified sites by 6 per cent. Given the presence of both socioeconomic and nondemographic constraints on rural communities, significant improvements in physician distribution may require that programmatic interventions be intensified.

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