Context: Integral to the location of health resources is the distance decay of utilization observed in a population. In rural Peru, a nongovernmental organization planning to increase the availability of health services needed this information.
Purpose: To determine variables associated with utilization of a central medical clinic and determine whether, because of the mountainous topography, travel time (TT) would be a better predictor of utilization than distance.
Methods: A door-to-door survey of all available households (81% of total), using a Spanish translation of questions excerpted from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, was conducted in the summer of 2008 to determine variables associated with self-reported history of clinic utilization.
Results: Utilization was inversely related to TT and distance. Of those living within 5 minutes of the clinic, 61% had been to the clinic whereas only 25% of those living 30 or more minutes away had sought care. Female gender and fever predicted increased odds of clinic utilization. Having a disability reduced one's odds (OR 0.55) of visiting the clinic, after adjusting for gender, TT, and fever. The inverse correlation of utilization with travel distance and TT was not significantly different, thus failing to demonstrate that TT is a better predictor of utilization than distance.
Conclusion: In health service planning, care for common conditions should be available within 5 minutes’ TT or a few kilometers’ distance from each person's home in order to improve health care access and reduce health care disparities worsened by disability.