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OBJECTIVE: To explore the relationship between homestead distance to hospital and access to care and to estimate the sensitivity of hospital-based surveillance in Kilifi district, Kenya. METHODS: In 2002-2006, clinical information was obtained from all children admitted to Kilifi District Hospital and linked to demographic surveillance data. Travel times to the hospital were calculated using geographic information systems and regression models were constructed to examine the relationships between travel time, cause-specific hospitalization rates and probability of death in hospital. Access to care ratios relating hospitalization rates to community mortality rates were computed and used to estimate surveillance sensitivity. FINDINGS: The analysis included 7200 admissions (64 per 1000 child-years). Median pedestrian and vehicular travel times to hospital were 237 and 61 minutes, respectively. Hospitalization rates decreased by 21% per hour of travel by foot and 28% per half hour of travel by vehicle. Distance decay was steeper for meningitis than for pneumonia, for females than for males, and for areas where mothers had less education on average. Distance was positively associated with the probability of dying in hospital. Overall access to care ratios, which represent the probability that a child in need of hospitalization will have access to care at the hospital, were 51-58% for pneumonia and 66-70% for meningitis. CONCLUSION: In this setting, hospital utilization rates decreased and the severity of cases admitted to hospital increased as distance between homestead and hospital increased. Access to hospital care for children living in remote areas was low, particularly for those with less severe conditions. Distance decay was attenuated by increased levels of maternal education. Hospital-based surveillance underestimated pneumonia and meningitis incidence by more than 45% and 30%, respectively.

Original publication




Journal article


Bull World Health Organ

Publication Date





102 - 111


Child, Preschool, Confidence Intervals, Epidemiologic Methods, Female, Geographic Information Systems, Global Health, Health Services Accessibility, Hospitalization, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Inpatients, Kenya, Male, Models, Statistical, Mortality, Odds Ratio, Pneumonia, Population Surveillance, Regression Analysis, Risk Factors, Time Factors