Various initiatives to improve access to health care have been implemented internationally. In Brazil, this has included policies intended to expand access to higher education for underrepresented socio-economic groups. These measures have reduced inequalities in access to medical education, but it is not known whether they influence career choices. We examine the effect of these educational policies on physician practice patterns in primary care and/or in medically underserved areas.
This is a cross-sectional study that analysed the association between affirmative educational policies and the career choices of physicians who graduated between 2010 and 2015. Multivariate binary regression analysis was used to evaluate the impact of affirmative educational policies on physician career choices, including primary care practice, practice in cities with ≤20 000 inhabitants, and practice in less developed municipalities 4 years after graduation.
We identified the practice patterns of 65 304 (82.8%) physicians 4 years after their graduation. Most physicians included in our analysis were female (54.5%), aged ≤27 years (72.4%), born in developed cities and studied in private medical schools. Physicians admitted to medical school based on racial or social access policies were more likely to practice in municipalities with fewer than 20 000 inhabitants (odds ratio [OR]: 1.64; 1.36–1.98) and in primary care (OR: 1.55; 1.35–1.53). Physicians who benefited from scholarships for under-represented socio-economic groups were more likely to practice in small cities (OR: 1.24; 1.07–1.43) and primary care (OR: 1.23; 1.11–1.37). The provision of financial aid also improved the likelihood of practice in primary care and underserved areas. Graduation from medical schools located in smaller cities was associated with practice in municipalities ≤20 000 inhabitants and primary care.
Our results demonstrated that educational policies implemented in the Brazilian context are effective in reducing inequities in physician distribution and led to an increase in the number of physicians practicing in primary care.