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Open Access Research article

Effects of residence and race on burden of travel for care: cross sectional analysis of the 2001 US National Household Travel Survey

Janice C Probst1*, Sarah B Laditka2, Jong-Yi Wang34 and Andrew O Johnson3

Author Affiliations

1 South Carolina Rural Health Research Center, Department of Health Services Policy and Management, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA

2 Department of Health Services Policy and Management, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA

3 South Carolina Rural Health Research Center, Department of Health Services Policy and Management, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA

4 Department of Health Services Policy & Management, School of Public Health, China Medical University, 91 Hsueh-Shih Road, Taichung 40402, Taiwan

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BMC Health Services Research 2007, 7:40  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-7-40

Published: 9 March 2007

Abstract

Background

Travel burden is a key element in conceptualizing geographic access to health care. Prior research has shown that both rural and minority populations bear disproportionate travel burdens. However, many studies are limited to specific types of patient or specific locales. The purpose of our study was to quantify geographic and race-based differences in distance traveled and time spent in travel for medical/dental care using representative national data.

Methods

Data were drawn from 2001 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), a nationally representative, cross-sectional household survey conducted by the US Department of Transportation. Participants recorded all travel on a designated day; the overall response rate was 41%. Analyses were restricted to households reporting at least one trip for medical and/or dental care; 3,914 trips made by 2,432 households. Dependent variables in the analysis were road miles traveled, minutes spent traveling, and high travel burden, defined as more than 30 miles or 30 minutes per trip. Independent variables of interest were rural residence and race. Characteristics of the individual, the trip, and the community were controlled in multivariate analyses.

Results

The average trip for care in the US in 2001 entailed 10.2 road miles (16.4 kilometers) and 22.0 minutes of travel. Rural residents traveled further than urban residents in unadjusted analysis (17.5 versus 8.3 miles; 28.2 versus 13.4 km). Rural trips took 31.4% longer than urban trips (27.2 versus 20.7 minutes). Distance traveled did not vary by race. African Americans spent more time in travel than whites (29.1 versus 20.6 minutes); other minorities did not differ. In adjusted analyses, rural residence (odds ratio, OR, 2.67, 95% confidence interval, CI 1.39 5.1.5) was associated with a trip of 30 road miles or more; rural residence (OR, 1.80, CI 1.09 2.99) and African American race/ethnicity (OR 3.04. 95% CI 2.0 4.62) were associated with a trip lasting 30 minutes or longer.

Conclusion

Rural residents and African Americans experience higher travel burdens than urban residents or whites when seeking medical/dental care.