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Spatial inequity in access to healthcare facilities at a county level in a developing country: a case study of Deqing County, Zhejiang, China

Jin, C and Cheng, J and Lu, Y and Huang, Z and Cao, F (2015) Spatial inequity in access to healthcare facilities at a county level in a developing country: a case study of Deqing County, Zhejiang, China. International Journal for Equity in Health, 14.

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Abstract

Background The inequities in healthcare services between regions, urban and rural, age groups and diverse income groups have been growing rapidly in China. Equal access to basic medical and healthcare services has been recognized as “a basic right of the people” by Chinese government. Spatial accessibility to healthcare facilities has received huge attention in Chinese case studies but been less studied particularly at a county level due to limited availability of high-resolution spatial data. This study is focused on measuring spatial accessibility to healthcare facilities in Deqing County. The spatial inequity between the urban (town) and rural is assessed and three scenarios are designed and built to examine which scenario is instrumental for better reducing the spatial inequity. Methods This study utilizes highway network data, Digital Elevation Model (DEM), location of hospitals and clinics, 2010 census data at the finest level – village committee, residential building footprint and building height. Areal weighting method is used to disaggregate population data from village committee level to residential building cell level. Least cost path analysis is applied to calculate the travel time from each building cell to its closest healthcare facility. Then an integral accessibility will be calculated through weighting the travel time to the closest facility between three levels. The spatial inequity in healthcare accessibility between the town and rural areas is examined based on the coverages of areas and populations. The same method is used to compare three scenarios aimed at reducing such spatial inequity – relocation of hospitals, updates of weighting values, and the combination of both. Results 50.03 % of residents can reach a county hospital within 15 min by driving, 95.77 % and 100 % within 30 and 60 min respectively. 55.14 % of residents can reach a town hospital within 5 min, 98.04 % and 100 % within 15 and 30 min respectively. 57.86 % of residential building areas can reach a village clinic within 5 min, 92.65 % and 99.22 % within 10 and 15 min. After weighting the travel time between the three-level facilities, 30.87 % of residents can reach a facility within 5 min, 80.46 %% and 99.88 % within 15 and 30 min respectively. Conclusions The healthcare accessibility pattern of Deqing County has exhibited spatial inequity between the town and rural areas, with the best accessibility in the capital of the county and poorest in the West of the county. There is a high negative correlation between population ageing and healthcare accessibility. Allocation of more advanced medical and healthcare equipment and highly skillful doctors and nurses to village clinics will be an efficient means of reducing the spatial inequity and further consolidating the national medical security system. GIS (Geographical Information Systems) methods have proven successful method of providing quantitative evidence for policy analysis although the data sets and methods could be further improved.

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