Family Physicians Lead in Specialties in Providing Rural Health Care

Robert Graham Center data are basis of AHRQ “Facts and Stats” series

Friday, February 03, 2012

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6252

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Family physicians provide more health care to rural areas than other primary care or subspecialty physicians, according to data released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality(

The data, part of the “Facts and Stats” series based on research by the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, show that 22.5 percent of family physicians practice in rural areas, compared to 9.7 percent of all physicians who practice in rural areas.

“These data confirm that family physicians continue to be the first contact for rural Americans needing medical care,” said Glen Stream, MD, MBI, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “At the same time, it indicates that we need to do more to recruit students from rural areas into our medical schools. Research has consistently shown that medical school rural programs and medical school admissions policies that recruit rural students produce physicians who are likely to go into family medicine and practice in rural settings.”

The AAFP has urged medical educators to adopt admissions policies that actively recruit students from rural areas. Several schools have responded with comprehensive rural programs( Between 45 and 76 percent of graduates from these programs practice in rural areas; between 59 and 72 percent practice primary care.

Rural family medicine residency training programs are an important contributor to family physicians choosing and being prepared to practice in rural areas, according to Stream.

“Although family physicians and nurse practitioners are making a dent in meeting the demand for care among rural Americans, it’s clear our education policy needs to encourage more people to go into family medicine and rural practice,” he said. “As we work to address the problems of rural access to health care, we need to first look at the medical education system and its role in filling the primary care and rural care pipeline. We need to make a long-term commitment to ensuring that we have enough family physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in rural practice to meet the needs of all Americans, regardless of where they live.”

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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