Primary Health Care in New Zealand: Who Has Access?


The Issue

Little is known about the socioeconomic and health characteristics of those New Zealanders who face financial barriers when accessing primary health care, including general practitioner services, prescription drugs, and dental care. Using results from a national survey, Commonwealth Fund–supported researchers assessed the demographic, socioeconomic, health behavior, and health determinants of financial barriers to primary care.

What the Study Found

Among the 18,320 survey respondents:

  • 2,845 (15.5%) deferred seeing their doctors because they could not afford the cost at least once during the preceding 12 months; 4,175 (22.8%) deferred seeing their dentist; and 1,165 (6.4%) put off buying a prescription.
  • Those significantly more likely to defer visiting the doctor or dentist or delay filling prescriptions included younger individuals (ages 15–44), females, low- or middle-income people, those living in deprived areas or with higher levels of deprivation (based on an eight-question survey), smokers, people with high levels of psychosocial distress, and individuals with more than two comorbid conditions.


The authors conclude that a substantial group of New Zealanders continue to face financial barriers to necessary primary care, in spite of recent government efforts to reduce copayments for that care. The authors suggest that lowering cost-related barriers to care would make primary health care more accessible, particularly dental care.

Publication Details

Publication Date: December 7, 2010
Authors: Santosh Jatrana, Ph.D., D.P.H., and Peter Crampton, M.B., Ch.B., Ph.D., M.P.H.
Summary Writer: Martha Hostetter
S. Jatrana and P. Crampton, "Primary Health Care in New Zealand: Who Has Access?" Health Policy, Nov. 2009 93(1):1–10.

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