The GP's perception of poverty: a qualitative study

Fam Pract. 2005 Apr;22(2):177-83. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmh724. Epub 2005 Feb 14.


Background: Health differences between people from lower and higher social classes increase. The accessibility of the health care system is one of the multiple and complex causes. The Physician's perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards the patient are in this context important determinants.

Objectives: To explore the general practitioners' definition of poverty and their perception of the deprived patients' attitude towards health and health care, to get insight into the ways general practitioners deal with the problem of poverty and to present the proposals general practitioners make to improve health care for the deprived.

Method: The study involved qualitative methodology using 21 semi-structured interviews. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were coded using Framework Analysis techniques. Interviews were undertaken with general practitioners in primary care, working in a deprived area in the city of Ghent.

Results: In the definition of poverty, three concepts can be identified: socioeconomic aspects, psychological and individual characteristics, and socio-cultural concepts. General practitioners adopt different types of approaches to deal with deprived patients in practice: adaptation of the doctor-patient communication, lowering of the financial threshold, referral to specialists and other health care professionals.

Conclusion: Including the issue of poverty and poverty in the curriculum of the medical students and in the in-service training for practicing doctors could have a positive impact on their attitude towards this patient group. Further research is needed into the barriers in the accessibility of the health care system for the deprived, exploring qualitatively and quantitatively the experiences and the living conditions of deprived patients and the perceptions of health care providers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Belgium
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Poverty*
  • Socioeconomic Factors