A Geospatial Approach to Understanding Inequalities in Accessibility to Primary Care Among Vulnerable Populations

Despite Canada being known for providing a “universal health care system”, Canadians across the country are experiencing unequal access to primary care services. Vulnerable populations such as those with low income status, seniors, single parents, linguistic minorities, etc, are often exposed to health inequalities as our population ages, income inequality increases, immigration patterns change, and urbanization of population increases.

The research team – comprised of Jason A. Gilliland, Tayyab I. Shah, Andrew Clark, Shannon Sibbald, Jamie A. Seabrook – addressed the issue by examining the spatial distribution of primary care providers (PCPs), such as family physicians, general practitioners and nurse practitioners in London Ontario. The goal of this approach is to infer whether PCPs are meeting the needs of vulnerable populations. It was found that areas of high proportions of vulnerable populations experienced lower accessibility, i.e. some areas have surplus PCPs, while others have deficit. Downtown/central and surrounding areas of the city was where better geographic accessibility to PCPs were observed, however this does not guarantee that PCPs are fulfilling their duties, and that individuals found in the “higher accessibility” areas are having their needs met.

Study provided a basic understanding of the primary care status within city limits. Such insight into the intra-urban distributions of access to primary care resources for vulnerable populations can encourage and inform policy makers and city managers, recommending increase levels of accessibility, ensuring primary care services to populations in under served areas

Funding for the study was provided to the Human Environments Analysis Laboratory at Western University (PI: Gilliland) by the West Elgin Community Health Centre on behalf of the South West Local Health Integration Network.


Read the full article here: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0210113

Keywords: Health care, primary care, vulnerable population, primary care providers


This publication was featured in multiple news outlets:

CBC Listen: Dr. Jason Gilliland morning interview on London’s primary health care accessibility

Jason Gilliland of HEAL Featured in Western News for Primary-Care Proximity Study

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