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Physical access to primary health care in Andean Bolivia

  • Perry, Baker
  • Gesler, Wil
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    Limited physical access to primary health care is a major factor contributing to the poor health of populations in developing countries, particularly in mountain areas with rugged topography, harsh climates and extensive socioeconomic barriers. Assessing physical access to primary health care is an important exercise for health care planners and policy makers. The development of geographic information system (GIS) technology has greatly improved this assessment process in industrialized countries where digital cartographic data are widely available. In developing countries -- particularly in mountain areas, however, detailed cartographic data, even in hardcopy form, are nonexistent, inaccurate or severely lacking. This paper uses GIS technology to assess physical access to primary health care in a remote and impoverished region of Andean Bolivia. In addition, it proposes an alternative model of health personnel distribution to maximize physical accessibility. Methods involved extensive fieldwork in the region, utilizing GPS (global positioning system) technology in the development of the GIS and gathering other pertinent health data for the study. Satellite imagery also contributed to the development of the GIS and in the modeling process. The results indicate significant variation in physical access to primary health care across the three study sites. More importantly, this paper highlights the use of GIS technology as a powerful tool in improving physical accessibility in mountain areas of developing countries.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 50 (2000)
    Issue (Month): 9 (May)
    Pages: 1177-1188

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:50:y:2000:i:9:p:1177-1188
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