Spatial access disparities to primary health care in rural and remote Australia

  • Matthew Richard McGrail | matthew.mcgrail@monash.edu School of Rural Health, Monash University, Churchill; Centre of Research Excellence in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.
  • John Stirling Humphreys School of Rural Health, Monash University, Churchill; Centre of Research Excellence in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.

Abstract

Poor spatial access to health care remains a key issue for rural populations worldwide. Whilst geographic information systems (GIS) have enabled the development of more sophisticated access measures, they are yet to be adopted into health policy and workforce planning. This paper provides and tests a new national-level approach to measuring primary health care (PHC) access for rural Australia, suitable for use in macro-level health policy. The new index was constructed using a modified two-step floating catchment area method framework and the smallest available geographic unit. Primary health care spatial access was operationalised using three broad components: availability of PHC (general practitioner) services; proximity of populations to PHC services; and PHC needs of the population. Data used in its measurement were specifically chosen for accuracy, reliability and ongoing availability for small areas. The resultant index reveals spatial disparities of access to PHC across rural Australia. While generally more remote areas experienced poorer access than more populated rural areas, there were numerous exceptions to this generalisation, with some rural areas close to metropolitan areas having very poor access and some increasingly remote areas having relatively good access. This new index provides a geographically-sensitive measure of access, which is readily updateable and enables a fine granulation of access disparities. Such an index can underpin national rural health programmes and policies designed to improve rural workforce recruitment and retention, and, importantly, health service planning and resource allocation decisions designed to improve equity of PHC access.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Matthew Richard McGrail, School of Rural Health, Monash University, Churchill; Centre of Research Excellence in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care, Bendigo, Victoria

School of Rural Health

Senior Research Fellow

John Stirling Humphreys, School of Rural Health, Monash University, Churchill; Centre of Research Excellence in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care, Bendigo, Victoria

School of Rural Health,

Emeritus Professor

Published
2015-11-04
Section
Original Articles
Keywords:
Spatial accessibility, 2SFCA method, Rural health, Health services, Geographical disparities
Statistics
Abstract views: 5985

PDF: 3005
HTML: 2012
Share it

PlumX Metrics

PlumX Metrics provide insights into the ways people interact with individual pieces of research output (articles, conference proceedings, book chapters, and many more) in the online environment. Examples include, when research is mentioned in the news or is tweeted about. Collectively known as PlumX Metrics, these metrics are divided into five categories to help make sense of the huge amounts of data involved and to enable analysis by comparing like with like.

How to Cite
McGrail, M., & Humphreys, J. (2015). Spatial access disparities to primary health care in rural and remote Australia. Geospatial Health, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.4081/gh.2015.358