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Distance to primary care facilities and healthcare utilization for preschool children in rural northwestern Burkina Faso: results from a surveillance cohort.

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Delays in care-seeking for childhood illness may lead to more severe outcomes. We evaluated whether community distance from a primary healthcare facility was associated with decreased healthcare utilization in a rural district of northwestern Burkina Faso.


We conducted passive surveillance of all government-run primary healthcare facilities in Nouna District, Burkina Faso from March 1 through May 31, 2020. All healthcare visits for children under 5 years of age were recorded on a standardized form for sick children. We recorded the age, sex, and community of residence of the child as well as any diagnoses and treatments administered. We calculated healthcare utilization per 100 child-months by linking the aggregate number of visits at the community level to the community's population of children under 5 months per a census that was conducted from August 2019 through February 2020. We calculated the distance between each community and its corresponding healthcare facility and assessed the relationship between distance and the rate of healthcare utilization.


In 226 study communities, 12,676 primary healthcare visits were recorded over the three-month period. The median distance between the community and primary healthcare facility was 5.0 km (IQR 2.6 to 6.9 km), and median number of healthcare visits per 100 child-months at the community level was 6.7 (IQR 3.7 to 12.3). The rate of primary healthcare visits declined with increasing distance from clinic (Spearman's rho - 0.42, 95% CI - 0.54 to - 0.31, P < 0.0001). This relationship was similar for cause-specific clinic visits (including pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea) and for antibiotic prescriptions.


We documented a distance decay effect between community distance from a primary healthcare facility and the rate of healthcare visits for children under 5. Decreasing distance-related barriers, for example by increasing the number of facilities or targeting outreach to more distant communities, may improve healthcare utilization for young children in similar settings.

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