Primary care, specialty care, and life chances

Int J Health Serv. 1994;24(3):431-58. doi: 10.2190/BDUU-J0JD-BVEX-N90B.


The relationship between the availability of primary care and specialty care and certain life chance indicators such as mortality rates and life expectancy is analyzed using the multiple regression procedure. Dependent variables are life chance indicators; independent variables were selected based on Starfield's and Blum's health determinant models and include socioeconomic environment, lifestyles, demographics, and medical care. The author also examines the rankings of states in terms of these indicators, using Spearman's rho coefficient. Among the medical care variables, primary care is by far the most significant variable related to better health status, correlating with lower overall mortality, lower death rates due to diseases of the heart and cancer, longer life expectancy, lower neonatal death rate, and lower low birth weight. In contrast, the number of specialty physicians is positively and significantly related to total mortality, deaths due to heart diseases and cancer, shorter life expectancy, higher neonatal mortality, and higher low birth weight. From a policy perspective, a likely implication is to reorient the medical profession from its current expensive, clinically based, treatment-focused practice to a more cost-effective, prevention-oriented primary care system.

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Life Style
  • Medicine*
  • Mortality*
  • Physicians, Family / supply & distribution
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Specialization*
  • United States
  • Workforce