Objective: To assess whether female primary care physicians' reported coverage of patients eligible for certain preventive care strategies differs from male physicians' reported coverage.
Design: A mailed survey.
Setting: Primary care practices in southern Ontario.
Participants: All primary care physicians who graduated between 1972 and 1988 and practised in a defined geographic area of Ontario were selected from the Canadian Medical Association's physician resource database. Response rate was 50%.
Main outcome measures: Answers to questions on sociodemographic and practice characteristics, attitudes toward preventive care, and perceptions about preventive care behaviour and practices.
Results: In general, reported coverage for Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination's (CTFPHE) A and B class recommendations was low. However, more female than male physicians reported high coverage of women patients for female-specific preventive care measures (i.e., Pap smears, breast examinations, and mammography) and for blood pressure measurement. Female physicians appeared to question more patients about a greater number of health risks. Often, sex of physician was the most salient factor affecting whether preventive care services thought effective by the CTFPHE were offered. However, when evidence for effectiveness of preventive services was equivocal or lacking, male and female physicians reported similar levels of coverage.
Conclusion: Female primary care physicians are more likely than their male colleagues to report that their patients eligible for preventive health measures as recommended by the CTFPHE take advantage of these measures.