Inequality in the distribution of health resources and health services in China: hospitals versus primary care institutions.Int J Equity Health. 2017 03 03; 16(1):42.IJ
Equity is one of the major goals of China's recent health system reform. This study aimed to evaluate the equality of the distribution of health resources and health services between hospitals and primary care institutions.
Data of this study were drawn from the China Health Statistical Year Books. We calculated Gini coefficients based on population size and geographic size, respectively, for the indicators: number of institutions, number of health workers and number of beds; and the concentration index (CI) for the indicators: per capita outpatient visits and annual hospitalization rates.
The Gini coefficients against population size ranged between 0.17 and 0.44 in the hospital sector, indicating a relatively good equality. The primary care sector showed a slightly higher level of Gini coefficients (around 0.45) in the number of health workers. However, inequality was evident in the geographic distribution of health resources. The Gini coefficients exceeded 0.7 in the geographic distribution of institutions, health workers and beds in both the hospital and the primary care sectors, indicating high levels of inequality. The CI values of hospital inpatient care and outpatient visits to primary care institutions were small (ranging from -0.02 to 0.02), indicating good wealth-related equality. The CI values of outpatient visits to hospitals ranged from 0.16 to 0.21, indicating a concentration of services towards the richer populations. By contrast, the CI values of inpatient care in primary care institutions ranged from -0.24 to -0.22, indicating a concentration of services towards the poorer populations. The eastern developed region also had a high internal inequality compared with the other less developed regions.
Significant inequality in the geographic distribution of health resources is evident, despite a more equitable per capita distribution of resources. Richer people are more likely to use well-resourced hospitals for outpatient care. By contrast, poorer people are more likely to use poorly-resourced primary care institutions for inpatient care. There is a risk of the emergence of a two-tiered health care delivery system.