objective: describe the prevalence of medical visits and associated factors in an adult population of a midsized town in southern brazil. methods: a population-based cross-sectional study was carried out in a representative random cluster sampling in lages, santa catarina. the reference population were adults (aged 20 to 59 years) and 2,022 persons were queried. the outcome was medical visits during twelve months prior to the survey. information related to kind of service (public/private) and evaluation of this service were also collected. the independent variables were gender, race/skin color, marital status, income, educational background, health self-perception, nutritional state, self-reported diabetes, hypertension, smoking and alcohol problems. poisson regression was carried out and the prevalence rate was obtained. results: the prevalence of medical visits was 76.0% (ci95% 73.6-78.4). women, the wealthier, those who have diabetes, smokers, ex-smokers, those with alcohol problems, also those who evaluated their health negatively, reported a greater prevalence of medical visits. it was also observed that among lower income people, medical visits to the public health system (sistema único de saúde) were more frequent.. conclusion: prevalence of medical visits varied according to the population queried. health policies at the three government levels must acknowledge such inequality to subsidize actions in the sector to propose equanimous policies.