The Washington area has a generous supply of physicians, but a wide variation exists in the distribution from one jurisdiction to another.
The entire metropolitan area has roughly 225 physicians per 100,000 population. That number includes all nonfederal physicians in all specialties.
The District of Columbia has 941 physicians per 100,000. The distribution of primary care physicians - general and family practitioners, internists, prediatricians and obstrician/gynecologist - ranges from 228 doctors per 100,000 in upper Northwest Washington, where the population is largely white and affluent, to about 20 per 100,000 in the area east of the Annacostia, where the population is basically black and less affluent.
Outside of the city, the variation continue. Montgomery County with the highest family income in the area, has about per 100,000 compared to 90.6 in Prince George's and 137 in Northern Virginia. Loudoun County had about 82 physicians per 100,000 and Prince William had 46.5.
The supply of physicians in the area has grown at a rate nine times faster than the population growth. Despite these increases in the total number, the greatest growth has not been in the general or family practice of medicine - where health experts expect the shortage to be acute nationwide - but in specialities.
The number of general and family practitioners locally has absolutely declined since 1963. Even if specialists in internal medicine are added to general and family practitioners, the ratio is only about 34 per 100,000, still short of the 40 per 100,000 that the American Academy of Family Practitioners has set as a desirable ratio.
The movement of physicians into the area seems to be independent of population trends. While the Districts population was declining between 1970 and 1974 by almost 5 per cent, the number of physicians was increasing 13 per cent.
Montgomery County, which already had a relatively abundant supply of physicians had a population increase of about 7 per cent during 1970 to 1974, but the number of physicians increased 53 per cent.
Prince George's, with fewer doctors per capita than Montgomery County, had a 3.5 per cent population increase, but the number of doctors went up 41 per cent. In Northern Virginia the population increased 8 per cent but the physician population went up 31 per cent.
The areas with the greatest growth in physicians population appear to be those where the family icnome is highest. Thus, Montgomery and Fairfax Counties, with median family incomes of about $21,000 had the highest percentage growth.
Arlington and Prince George's Counties, with median family incomes of $16,000 and $15,400 in 1974 had significantly different rates of growth in the number of physicians from 1970 through 1974. Arlington, which had an increase of only 15 per cent in the number physicians, compared to 41 per cent for Prince George's, had 76 per cent more physicians per capita than Prince George's.