With the rapid development of urbanization and industrialization in China, environmental issues have become an urgent problem, especially issues related to air, water, and solid-waste pollution. These pollutants pose threats to the health of the population and to that of communities and have a vicious influence on the healthcare system. Additionally, pollution also exhibits spill-over effects, which means that pollution in the local region could affect the healthcare services in a neighboring region. Therefore, it is necessary to explore the relationship between pollution and healthcare. A spatial autocorrelation analysis was conducted and spatial panel econometric models were constructed to explore the characteristics of pollution and healthcare services in China and the relationship between them using data on all 31 provinces over 12 consecutive years (2006–2017). The results showed that the utilization of healthcare services and environmental pollution were not randomly distributed; unsurprisingly, air pollution and solid-waste pollution were mainly found in parts of northern China, while water pollution was highest in southern and coastal China. In addition, environmental pollution exhibited spill-over effects on healthcare services. For example, a 1% increase in solid waste in one specific geographical unit was estimated to increase the inpatient visits per capita in adjacent counties by 0.559%. Specifically, pollution showed different degrees of influence on healthcare services, which means that the impact of environmental pollution on the number of outpatient visits is greater than on the number of inpatient visits. Our results provide the government with evidence for effectively formulating and promulgating policies, especially policies aimed at tackling spill-over effects among different regions.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited