Economic crisis, austerity and rural areas: a qualitative study exploring perceptions of the effects on health care system and health in Navarra, Spain
Keywords:Financial Crisis, Austerity Measures, Qualitative Study, Rural Areas, Spain
The financial crisis has led to severe austerity measures in the Spanish health care system, among which are the reduction of public spending, the modification of the basic principle of universal coverage, the co-payment and labor reforms. This article presents the findings from a qualitative study that explores the perceptions of primary health care professionals and population of the effects of the crisis on the health system and health in rural areas. The qualitative methodology was considered ideal for the study of a complex phenomenon. We looked for depth in the understanding considering meanings and context. The study was carried out in three valleys of the Spanish Pyrenees (Navarra). We conducted 22 semi-structured interviews with key informants and non-expert profiles analyzed according to the sociological analysis of the speech. The unequal accessibility to health services by rural population was unanimously identified as the greatest threat and challenge for these territories. An inequality that was considered aggravated in older population. The people interviewed did not mention a negative impact on the quality of rural primary care service. They noticed that quality of health care had become worse in urban centers and in specialized healthcare. The differential impacts of policies in rural areas require more research, considering their particularities and thus understanding the specific impact of the crisis on these territories.