Mapping access to health services as a strategy for planning: Access to primary care for older people in regional Queensland

Rebecca Evans, Sarah Larkins, Tracy Cheffins, Rhonda Fleming, Karen Johnston, Marc Tennant

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    Abstract

    Australia has seen a significant increase in people aged over 65 years accessing general practice services over the last decade. Although people aged 65 years and over comprise 14% of the total population, this age demographic accounts for the largest proportion of general practitioner (GP)-patient encounters. Access to general practice is important for older Australians as the burden of chronic disease increases with age. A geographic information system, ArcGIS, was used to assess geographic access to general practice for older people residing in the regional Queensland towns of Mackay, Townsville and Cairns. Geographic units with high proportions of over 65-year-old people were spatially analysed in relation to proximity to geomapped general practices with a 2-km buffer zone. Modelling of changes in access was performed with the strategic location of a new general practice where gaps existed. Geographic access to general practice for the older population was poorest in Cairns despite a high population density. Addition of a single, strategically placed general practice in Cairns markedly improved access. Socioeconomic analysis suggested that general practices were appropriately located in areas of greatest need. Geographic information systems provide a means to map population characteristics against service locations to assist in strategic development and location of future health services.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)114-122
    Number of pages9
    JournalAustralian Journal of Primary Health
    Volume23
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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