London

How one professor used geography to assess health care service in London

A Western University geography professor looked at the 267 active primary health care providers in London to see how their locations matched up with where vulnerable people lived.

Health inequalities have a stronger impact on the health of vulnerable populations, researcher says

A map that shows the number of primary health care providers per 1,000 people in London. The lighter the colour, the greater the number of doctors or nurse practitioners per 1,000 people. (Supplied)

A new study uses geography to better understand accessibility to primary health care in London. 

The study maps how many people live within 15 minutes from a family doctor or a health care practitioner. It pays particular attention to vulnerable populations, including seniors, single-parent households, and low-income families. 

Western University geography professor Jason Gilliland looked at the 267 active primary health care providers in London to see how their locations matched up with where vulnerable people lived. 

"We want accessibility to be greater for vulnerable populations, because we know that seniors are less likely to drive, or low-income families are less likely to own a car," Gilliland said. 

Results surprising for researcher

Gilliland said he was surprised London did so well when it comes to primary care accessibility. 

"It's what we're finding. It's not super strong, but it is better for vulnerable populations," Gilliland told CBC News. 

Family doctors and nurse practitioners are centrally located and on major bus routes, which is where those vulnerable populations tend to live, he said. 

"Centrality is definitely an issue. If you're central, you have better access. If you look at the urban core of London, it's well provided-for. The further east you go, or in the northwest, or in more rural areas, the accessibility is worse."

Spanish speakers have less access

The study also looked at access for Spanish, French and Arabic-speaking populations, finding that the Spanish speakers in London had the least access to doctors or nurse practitioners in their mother tongue. 

French speakers had the best access, followed by Arabic speakers, who had good access in the core. 

"This information can be used by city planners or health care providers to target recruitment or when planning new facilities," Gilliland said.