September 2006

Document Type


Degree Name



Dept. of Public Health and Preventive Medicine


Oregon Health & Science University


The shortage of family physicians in Canada is reaching the level of crisis. It is now the rule, not the exception, to live in a community that does not have sufficient family physicians to care for all of its citizens, particularly in Northern and more remote regions. Existing stopgaps provide certain primary care services, but often in an expensive, inefficient, and non-continuous manner. In view of the 'gatekeeper' role of family physicians in the Canadian health care system, the potential implications of not having a family physician are vast, but unexamined. What truly are the implications of not having a family physician in the Canadian health care system? And who is affected? In order to answer these questions, data from the Statistics Canada Community Health Survey were accessed. This database is compiled by the federal government on a biyearly basis and documents the health status, demographics, and health care access characteristics of Canadians. This data provide the basis for examining the differences between those who have a family doctor and those who do not. Comparisons were made in four key areas: demographic, socioeconomic, health status, and preventive services. In general, it was found that people who do not have a regular doctor, when compared with those who do, are more likely to be single, male, non-elderly, non-white, and non-immigrant. They are also more likely to have a background of higher education, to be of lower income, employed, and not own their own home. They are less likely than those with a doctor to have a chronic disease or a mental health problem, and are also less likely to have received medical screening tests or flu shots. These findings are upheld even when data are stratified by age category, chronic disease, and physician shortage level.




School of Medicine



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