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Targeted Enrollment of Medical Students for Rural China: Prospects and Challenges

Authors Hou J, Liang Y, Tong L, Kolars JC, Wang M

Received 13 August 2019

Accepted for publication 14 November 2019

Published 4 December 2019 Volume 2019:10 Pages 1021—1030


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Md Anwarul Azim Majumder

Jianlin Hou,1 Yi Liang,2 Lang Tong,3 Joseph C Kolars,4 Minghao Wang5

1Institute of Medical Education & National Center for Health Professions Education Development, Peking University, Beijing 100083, People’s Republic of China; 2National Center for Poverty Alleviation Publicity and Education, State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, Beijing 100101, People’s Republic of China; 3International Poverty Reduction Center in China, Beijing 100028, People’s Republic of China; 4University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA; 5Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, People’s Republic of China

Correspondence: Minghao Wang
Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, People’s Republic of China
Tel +86 10 8210 9553
Fax +86 10 8210 9801

Purpose: Most countries are faced with the challenge of inadequate human resources for health in rural and remote areas. In China, approximately 41% of the total population reside in rural areas where there is a severe shortage of qualified practicing physicians. The Chinese government adopted a plan to strengthen the primary healthcare workforce by increasing enrollment of students from rural areas and providing free medical education. The purpose of this study is to examine the design and implementation of this plan in China, including its construct, outcomes, and challenges.
Methods: Three databases and Baidu were searched to find literature relating to targeted enrollment of medical students for rural China. Official government documents were also reviewed.
Results: Targeted enrollment of medical students from rural areas was implemented in 2010 throughout China. For example, under financial support from the Ministry of Finance, over 5000 5-year medical students per year were admitted from central and western China. Most graduates went to rural primary care settings to provide health services in accordance with their signed commitments to provide service as intended by the government. These medical school initiatives are faced with a number of challenges, including unfilled enrollment vacancies, low motivation to study among these students along with a reluctance to serve a rural population, and unguaranteed job opportunities.
Conclusion: Targeted enrollment of medical students and free medical education in exchange for obligatory services contribute to improve the allocation of physicians in rural China. However, there are opportunities to improve the design and implementation of these programs. This review of the approach taken in China may be informative to other countries in their efforts to address the shortage of health professionals in rural and remote areas.

Keywords: targeted enrollment, rural oriented medical students, medical education, rural areas, human resources for health, China

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