Geographic accessibility to primary care providers: Comparing rural and urban areas in Southwestern Ontario

Primary care is the level of a health system that provides the first point of access to health related needs and problems, providing person-focused care over time in a continuous and coordinated fashion. Despite having a universal health care system, many Canadians still experience difficulty in accessing primary care services. This paper, authored by Dr. Tayyab Shah, Dr. Andrew Clark, Dr. Jamie Seabrook, Dr. Shannon Sibbald and Dr. Jason Gilliland examines the geographical accessibility to primary care providers (PCPs) across urban and rural areas of Southwestern Ontario and the variation in PCP distribution in relation to the senior population (65 years and older).

Using a geospatial mapping approach, disparities were revealed in PCP distribution, with higher spatial accessibility seen in or around major urban areas across Southwestern Ontario. Furthermore, areas with high geographic accessibility to PCPs did not match the locations with high proportion of seniors. The outcomes of this study will further assist researchers and health service planners to better understand the inequitable distribution of PCPs across the urban-rural continuum and in relation to the senior population. This information will also assist in determining effective solutions to bridge the accessibility gap. 

The authors would like to thank the Health Force Ontario Marketing and Recruitment Agency for providing data; the South West LHIN and West Elgin Community Health Centre for providing advice and financial assistance on an earlier version of this work; and the team at the Human Environments Analysis Laboratory ( at Western University for their research assistance

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Keywords: primary care, geography of health, inequalities, rural areas, senior population

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