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The Role of Distance and Quality on Facility Selection for Maternal and Child Health Services in Urban Kenya


Escamilla, Veronica; Calhoun, Lisa M.; Winston, Jennifer Jane; & Speizer, Ilene S. (2018). The Role of Distance and Quality on Facility Selection for Maternal and Child Health Services in Urban Kenya. Journal of Urban Health, 95(1), 1-12. PMCID: PMC5862698


Universal access to health care requires service availability and accessibility for those most in need of maternal and child health services. Women often bypass facilities closest to home due to poor quality. Few studies have directly linked individuals to facilities where they sought maternal and child health services and examined the role of distance and quality on this facility choice. Using endline data from a longitudinal survey from a sample of women in five cities in Kenya, we examine the role of distance and quality on facility selection for women using delivery, facility-based contraceptives, and child health services. A survey of public and private facilities offering reproductive health services was also conducted. Distances were measured between household cluster location and both the nearest facility and facility where women sought care. A quality index score representing facility infrastructure, staff, and supply characteristics was assigned to each facility. We use descriptive statistics to compare distance and quality between the nearest available facility and visited facility among women who bypassed the nearest facility. Facility distance and quality comparisons were also stratified by poverty status. Logistic regression models were used to measure associations between the quality and distance to the nearest facility and bypassing for each outcome. The majority of women bypassed the nearest facility regardless of service sought. Women bypassing for delivery traveled the furthest and had the fewest facility options near their residential cluster. Poor women bypassing for delivery traveled 4.5 km further than non-poor women. Among women who bypassed, two thirds seeking delivery and approximately 46% seeking facility-based contraception or child health services bypassed to a public hospital. Both poor and non-poor women bypassed to higher quality facilities. Our findings suggest that women in five cities in Kenya prefer public hospitals and are willing to travel further to obtain services at public hospitals, possibly related to free service availability. Over time, it will be important to examine service quality and availability in public sector facilities with reduced or eliminated user fees, and whether it lends itself to a continuum of care where women can visit one facility for multiple services reducing travel burden.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of Urban Health


Escamilla, Veronica
Calhoun, Lisa M.
Winston, Jennifer Jane
Speizer, Ilene S.