Addressing the Licensed Doctor Maldistribution in China : A Demand-And-Supply Perspective

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Original languageEnglish
Article number1753
Journal / PublicationInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number10
Online published17 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019



Background: The maldistribution of licensed doctors is one of the major challenges faced by the Chinese health sector. However, this subject remains underexplored, as the underlying causes of licensed doctor distribution have not been fully mapped out. To fill the research void, this study theoretically modeled and empirically measured various determinants of licensed doctor distribution from both the supply and demand sides while taking the spillover effect between the adjacent geographical units into consideration. Methods: The theory of demand and supply is adopted to construct a research framework so as to explain the imbalance in the licensed doctor distribution. Both direct effects and spillover effects of the supply-side factors and demand-side factors are empirically measured with the spatial panel econometric models. Results: The health service demand was found, as expected, to be the major driving force of the licensed doctor distribution across the nation. That is, the increase in health services demands in a province could significantly help one unit attract licensed doctors from adjacent units. Unexpectedly but intriguingly, the medical education capacity showed a relatively limited effect on increasing the licensed doctor density in local units compared with its spillover effect on neighboring units. In addition, government and social health expenditures played different roles in the health labor market, the former being more effective in increasing the stock of clinicians and public health doctors, the latter doing better in attracting dentists and general practitioners. Conclusions: The results provide directions for Chinese policy makers to formulate more effective policies, including a series of measures to boost the licensed doctor stock in disadvantaged areas, such as the increase of government or social health expenditures, more quotas for medical universities, and the prevention of a brain drain of licensed doctors.

Research Area(s)

  • health workforce, supply and distribution, physicians, dentists, general practitioners, China

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