How China's new health reform influences village doctors' income structure: Evidence from a qualitative study in six counties in China

Shengfa Zhang, Weijun Zhang, Huixuan Zhou, Huiwen Xu, Zhiyong Qu, Mengqi Guo, Fugang Wang, You Zhong, Linni Gu, Xiaoyun Liang, Zhihong Sa, Xiaohua Wang, Donghua Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In 2009, health-care reform was launched to achieve universal health coverage in China. A good understanding of how China's health reforms are influencing village doctors' income structure will assist authorities to adjust related polices and ensure that village doctors employment conditions enable them to remain motivated and productive. This study aimed to investigate the village doctors' income structure and analyse how these health policies influenced it. Methods: Based on a review of the previous literature and qualitative study, village doctors' income structure was depicted and analysed. A qualitative study was conducted in six counties of six provinces in China from August 2013 to January 2014. Forty-nine village doctors participated in in-depth interviews designed to document their income structure and its influencing factors. The themes and subthemes of key factors influencing village doctors' income structure were analysed and determined by a thematic analysis approach and group discussion. Results: Several policies launched during China's 2009 health-care reform had major impact on village doctors. The National Essential Medicines System cancelled drug mark-ups, removing their primary source of income. The government implemented a series of measures to compensate, including paying them to implement public health activities and provide services covered by social health insurance, but these have also changed the village doctors' role. Moreover, integrated management of village doctors' activities by township-level staff has reduced their independence, and different counties' economic status and health reform processes have also led to inconsistencies in village doctors' payment. These changes have dramatically reduced village doctors' income and employment satisfaction. Conclusions: The health-care reform policies have had lasting impacts on village doctors' income structure since the policies' implementation in 2009. The village doctors have to rely on the salaries and subsidies from the government after the drug mark-up was cancelled. China's national health reforms are attempting to draw village doctors into the national health workforce, but the policies have impacted their income and independence. Further research into these concerns and monitoring of measures to adequately compensate village doctors should be undertaken. Reasonable compensation strategies should be established, and sufficient subsidies should be allocated in a timely manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalHuman Resources for Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 12 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'How China's new health reform influences village doctors' income structure: Evidence from a qualitative study in six counties in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this