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November 24, 1989

Public Policy and the Supply of Primary Care Physicians

JAMA. 1989;262(20):2864-2868. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430200108035

The decline in general practice, the arrested growth of family medicine training programs, and the increased subspecialization of internal medicine and pediatrics are responsible for the continuing decrease in the proportion of physicians in the United States who practice a primary care specialty. Since 1963, the number of physicians has more than doubled, but the ratio of office-based primary care physicians to the national population has decreased. This trend has been especially pronounced in rural areas and impoverished urban communities. There is evidence that the proportion of young physicians entering primary care specialties is declining. Medical education has become increasingly reliant on service income, making it difficult to fund training in primary care specialties. Grants for graduate training in primary care specialties have not increased with inflation, and outright elimination of these programs is under consideration. Public programs that fund medical education must be reformed to improve the geographic and specialty distribution of physicians.

(JAMA. 1989;262:2864-2868)