2014 Volume 24 Issue 3 Pages 239-249
Objectives: To explore determinants of change in pediatrician supply in Japan, and examine impacts of a 2004 reform of postgraduate medical education on pediatricians’ practice location choice.
Methods: Data were compiled from secondary data sources. The dependent variable was the change in the number of pediatricians at the municipality (“secondary tier of medical care” [STM]) level. To analyze the determinants of pediatrician location choices, we considered the following predictors: initial ratio of pediatricians per 1000 children under five years of age (pediatrician density) and under-5 mortality as measures of local area need, as well as measures of residential quality. Ordinary least-squares regression models were used to estimate the associations. A coefficient equality test was performed to examine differences in predictors before and after 2004. Basic comparisons of pediatrician coverage in the top and bottom 10% of STMs were conducted to assess inequality in pediatrician supply.
Results: Increased supply was inversely associated with baseline pediatrician density both in the pre-period and post-period. Estimated impact of pediatrician density declined over time (P = 0.026), while opposite trends were observed for measures of residential quality. More specifically, urban centers and the SES composite index were positively associated with pediatrician supply for the post-period, but no such associations were found for the pre-period. Inequality in pediatrician distribution increased substantially after the reform, with the best-served 10% of communities benefitting from five times the pediatrician coverage compared to the least-served 10%.
Conclusions: Residential quality increasingly became a function of location preference rather than public health needs after the reform. New placement schemes should be developed to achieve more equity in access to pediatric care.