Accessibility to Healthcare
Mapping travel time to healthcare for the global population
The time required to travel to healthcare facilities influences whether individuals seek care when it is needed. This relationship is most problematic in low-income settings, where long travel times are also associated with higher relative transport costs. Thus, effectively characterising travel time can assist in identifying communities that would most benefit from additional healthcare resources.
This study has involved collaborators from:
- Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
- Department of Natural Resources, University of Twente, The Netherlands
- Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, France
- Google LLC, USA
- Institute for Disease Modeling, University of Washington, USA
- Stanford University, USA
- Department of Geography, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA
- Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London, UK
In this study, our collaborative team produced the first high-resolution global maps of travel time to hospitals and clinics. The results show that 91.1% of the world’s population can reach a hospital or clinic within an hour if they have access to motorised transportation, but only 56.7% can do so by walking alone. This means that just 8.9% of the global population (646 million people) cannot reach a healthcare facility within one hour if they have access to motorised transport, and that 43.3% (3.16 billion people) cannot reach a healthcare facility by foot within one hour.
Our maps highlight an additional vulnerability faced by poorer individuals in remote areas, can help to estimate whether individuals will seek healthcare when it is needed, and provide an evidence base for efficiently distributing limited healthcare and transportation resources to under-served populations both now and in the future.
Policy-makers may benefit from the travel time to healthcare maps as these highlight areas most in need of additional personnel and resources. By increasing the efficiency of resource allocation, the maps could help to increase health equity without requiring additional resources. Critically, by freely providing the tools to make custom travel time maps, we also enable public health professionals to characterise accessibility to specialised services such as emergency care.
More information can be found in the associated publication: https://malariaatlas.org/research-project/accessibility-to-healthcare/ or by contacting Dr Dan Weiss at Dan.Weiss@curtin.edu.au.
The resulting datasets can be obtained from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1059-1. And users can create their own travel time maps using our online tool: https://access-mapper.appspot.com/