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Distance and health care utilization among the rural elderly

  • Nemet, Gregory F.
  • Bailey, Adrian J.

This paper explores the relationship between distance and the utilization of health care by a group of elderly residents in rural Vermont. By drawing on recent work on the geography of health we frame the decision to visit a primary care physician in the context of the experience of place. The paper devises a test of this broader reading of the role of distance for utilization, and operationalizes this test using a custom designed survey. Using a randomized mail survey of elderly residents of Vermont's North East Kingdom we explore how grocery shopping, travel to work, home location relative to local services, access to private transportation, and living arrangements are associated with the number of doctor visits made to primary health care providers. Although the results confirm the idea that increased distance from provider does reduce utilization, they strongly suggest that distance to provider is a surrogate for location in a richer web of relations between residents and their local communities. We conclude by calling for further research that establishes links between place and the use of health facilities.

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

Volume (Year): 50 (2000)
Issue (Month): 9 (May)
Pages: 1197-1208

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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:50:y:2000:i:9:p:1197-1208
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