Changing habits, especially when it to comes to accessing health care, is a challenge. China is embarking on this road as it attempts to make health care more accessible to rural populations.

Samuel D. Towne Jr., PhD, an assistant professor of health management and informatics and part of UCF’s Disability, Aging & Technology Faculty Cluster Initiative, co-authored a study looking at patients across the life span in a region of China and their attitudes and habits in accessing medical care. The study’s recommendations may be helpful in advising policy makers in other nations about how to shift behavior.

The study was published this month in the journal Medicine. Co-authors include faculty at the School of Health Sciences at Wuhan University in China.

Most of those surveyed in the study preferred to travel to larger hospitals, even if it meant traveling greater distances, instead of seeking primary care in smaller sub-unit facilities (e.g., in rural locations). This has led to overtaxing of big hospitals and their personnel, even for what some consider to be primary care. The Chinese government is implementing a new National Hierarchical Medical System (NHMS) and has launched many relevant policies to direct patients to more regional practitioners for medical care, where appropriate.

Towne and his team assessed the status of and factors related to the establishment of the NHMS among outpatients in the most advanced provincial tertiary hospitals in the Jiangxi Provence in China.

“We sought to identify factors associated with knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to seeking care that may help inform both practice and policy in China,” Towne said. “Similar methods of assessment may be of use in other countries, and as such, the current study may play a role in informing future study in other similar countries as well.”