Understanding the shortage of village doctors in China and solutions under the policy of basic public health service equalization: evidence from Changzhou

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SUMMARYAs the most important public health service providers in rural China, village doctors are facing a new challenge of heavier workload resulting from the recent policy of public health service equalization. Studies on the shortage of village doctors, mainly based on the national statistics, have so far been very broad. This study conducted detailed field surveys to identify specific factors of and potential solutions to the shortage in village doctors.Eight hundred forty-four village doctors and 995 health decision makers and providers were surveyed through a questionnaire, and some of them were surveyed by in-depth face-to-face interviews and focus group interviews. Opinions on the shortage in village doctors and the potentially effective approaches to addressing the problem were sought.Some village doctors (51.3%) were at least 50 years old.Some village doctors (92.3%) did not want their children to become a village doctor, and the main reasons were “low salary” and “lack of social security”. Village doctors felt that it was difficult to provide all the required public health services. Local residents indicated that they established good relationships with village doctors. Some health decision makers and providers (74.0%) thought that they needed more village doctors.The shortage in village doctors presents a major obstacle toward the realization of China's policy of public health service equalization. The aging of current village doctors exacerbates the problem. Policies and programs are needed to retain the current and attract new village doctors into the workforce. Separate measures are also needed to address disparities in socioeconomic circumstance from village to village. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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