Percentage of Population with a Regular Physician

A Culturally-Relevant Perspective on This Issue

Introduction

The percentage of the population with a regular physician refers to the proportion of the adult population (15+) who report having a regular physician [1]. A regular physician (or medical doctor) includes family doctors/general practitioners who provide primary medical care, for example, annual exams, blood tests, flu shots, but also includes specialists. Overall, the proportion of Aboriginal persons having a regular physician (81%) is lower than the national average (85%) [2]. Aboriginal people living in remote and rural areas are considerably less likely to have a family physician than those living in non-isolated areas. Data on the percentage of the Inuit population with a regular physician are lacking.

First Nations

A National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) poll in 2003 found that approximately 76% of the First Nations adults interviewed reported having a regular physician. More First Nations women (80%) compared to men (68%) reported having a regular physician.  In non-isolated communities, 85% reported having a regular doctor, compared to 81% in semi-isolated communities, and 52% in isolated/remote communities [3].  First Nation individuals living in rural and isolated communities were more likely to report difficulty accessing health providers, including regular physicians. In non- and semi-isolated communities, 30% reported difficulties accessing family physicians, compared to 42% in isolated/remote communities [3].

Métis

According to the Aboriginal Peoples Survey in 2006, 81% of Métis adults aged 15 and over in Canada had access to regular physician. Specifically, 77% of males compared to 84% of females reported having a regular physician.  The percentage of adults having a regular physician generally increased with age: 71% of adults aged 20-24 had a family doctor compared to 87% in those aged 65 and over. Men aged 65 and older were most likely (89%) to have a regular doctor, followed by women aged 85-64 (88%).  Métis people living in the territories are the least likely of the Métis people in Canada to have a regular physician, with 54% of the population reporting having a regular doctor: 48% of males and 59% of females [4].

Inuit

There is no Canadian estimate for the percentage of the Inuit population with a regular physician.  However, the 2006 Aboriginal Population Survey estimates that 56% of Inuit adults had contact with a medical doctor compared to 79% of the general population [5].  This is partly due to the fact that few doctors work in Inuit communities on a regular basis. In most Inuit communities, nurses are the first point of contact with the medical system. In many cases, Inuit people with medical emergencies, needing diagnoses, or seeking treatment or appointments with specialists are evacuated to hospitals in southern Canada [5]. Similarly, Inuit children are less likely to have had contact with a doctor in the last year compared to the general population. Approximately 46% of all Inuit children in Canada had contact with a doctor compared to 85% of all children in Canada [6].

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