Exploring Competition and Proximity: A Comparison of Basic Methods

Today, HealthLandscape is releasing the Geospatial Brief, “Exploring Competition and Proximity: A Comparison of Basic Methods.” Brief #4 looks at the importance of including local context when measuring access to health care providers by comparing two common distance measurement methods with actual service area data retrieved from the UDS Mapper.
Configuring and updating the data behind the UDS Mapper is a task that requires many hours spent looking at the tool to make sure that what appears on the screen is logical and accurate. As we go through this process every update cycle, I know that Jennifer will send me her comments based on towns in Texas, Mark will send his showcasing the northern half of the Cincinnati metro, and Michael’s will focus on Kentucky. We each tend to focus on the geographic area that we are most familiar with – either where we’re from, our where we find ourselves, today.
Last spring, I moved from Cincinnati to a small town just west of Seattle, Washington. As I explored the Grantees and Access Points in my new locale during the last UDS Mapper update, I started thinking about accessibility issues and common ways that people measure distance and proximity to places they need to go. For example, Google Maps tells me that my house is 21 miles to my favorite coffee shop in downtown Seattle. However, because we live on the western side of Puget Sound, access to the city isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems – it requires either a ride on the ferry or an 80-mile drive around the Sound – at least an hour of travel, on a good day. I wondered whether the Health Center Program grantees on the Seattle side of the water could draw in patients from my area, and vice versa.

I decided to tackle this issue in a Geospatial Brief – comparing two common ways to measure access to facilities (Euclidean Distance and Network Distance) to the actual service area footprint of Peninsula County Health Services, the Health Center Program grantee in my county. The Brief illustrates the importance of incorporating real local knowledge into research design and methodology and serves as the starting point for additional research into defining areas of competition and proximity.

Jené Grandmont, MA

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