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Open Access Research article

Quantitative measurements of inequality in geographic accessibility to pediatric care in Oita Prefecture, Japan: Standardization with complete spatial randomness

Susumu Tanimura* and Masayuki Shima

Author Affiliations

Department of Public Health, Hyogo College of Medicine, 1-1 Mukogawa-cho, Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo, Japan

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BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:163  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-163

Published: 7 July 2011

Abstract

Background

A quantitative measurement of inequality in geographic accessibility to pediatric care as well as that of mean distance or travel time is very important for priority setting to ensure fair access to pediatric facilities. However, conventional techniques for measuring inequality is inappropriate in geographic settings. Since inequality measures of access distance or travel time is strongly influenced by the background geographic distribution patterns, they cannot be directly used for regional comparisons of geographic accessibility. The objective of this study is to resolve this issue by using a standardization approach.

Methods

Travel times to the nearest pediatric care were calculated for all children in Oita Prefecture, Japan. Relative mean differences were considered as the inequality measure for secondary medical service areas, and were standardized with an expected value estimated from a Monte Carlo simulation based on complete spatial randomness.

Results

The observed mean travel times in the area considered averaged 4.50 minutes, ranging from 1.83 to 7.02 minutes. The mean of the observed inequality measure was 1.1, ranging from 0.9 to 1.3. The expected values of the inequality measure varied according to the background geographic distribution pattern of children, which ranged from 0.3 to 0.7. After standardizing the observed inequality measure with the expected one, we found that the ranks of the inequality measure were reversed for the observed areas.

Conclusions

Using the indicator proposed in this paper, it is possible to compare the inequality in geographic accessibility among regions. Such a comparison may facilitate priority setting in health policy and planning.