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Rural Designations and Geographic Access to Tertiary Healthcare in Idaho

Introduction

This paper examines the geographic accessibility of tertiary health services for the rural population of Idaho. Utilizing the two most commonly used rurality definitions, we determined the spatial distribution of the rural and urban residents in Idaho. The distance to each of the tertiary healthcare facility was calculated using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Our analysis showed a large disparity between rural and urban geographic access to tertiary healthcare and revealed that there are significant variations in the disparity depending on the rural definition used. Thus there is a need to deploy strategies to enhance rural access and to construct rurality measures that capture the local heterogeneity, given that rurality designations impact the interpretation of access problems, and the funding eligibility for healthcare programs.

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