Objectives: To explore healthcare disparities in rural China two years after the implementation of the Essential Public Health Service (EPHS) reform in 2009.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted by surveying 930 hypertension patients (HPs) from different regions in rural China in 2011. The percentages of patients using recommended four or more follow-up visits in a year were calculated by patient socio-demographic characteristics and statistically examined using chi-square and logistic regression to uncover disparities and correlated factors in EPHS use.
Results: The rates were not significantly different by age, gender, education, insurance status or income, but significantly different by region and hypertension history (p<0.01). Higher rates were also observed on patients who sought actively follow-up service at clinics, making appointment for the next follow-up with doctors, awareness of the need of follow-up, more satisfied with the follow-up services, and better medication adherence (p<0.01).
Conclusions: There were no disparities observed among HPs in the use of follow-up services, suggesting that the reform has to some extent achieved its goal in ensuring equal access to EPHS. In this regard, regional implementation of the national policies and improvement of EPHS management at local level should be further improved.
Keywords: Equity; Essential public health services; Hypertensive patients; Rural China.