Creating spatially defined databases for equitable health service planning in low-income countries: the example of Kenya.
Noor AM., Gikandi PW., Hay SI., Muga RO., Snow RW.
Equity is an important criterion in evaluating health system performance. Developing a framework for equitable and effective resource allocation for health depends upon knowledge of service providers and their location in relation to the population they should serve. The last available map of health service providers in Kenya was developed in 1959. We have built a health service provider database from a variety of traditional government and opportunistic non-government sources and positioned spatially these facilities using global positioning systems, hand-drawn maps, topographical maps and other sources. Of 6674 identified service providers, 3355 (50%) were private sector, employer-provided or specialist facilities and only 39% were registered in the Kenyan Ministry of Health database during 2001. Of 3319 public service facilities supported by the Ministry of Health, missions, not-for-profit organizations and local authorities, 84% were registered on a Ministry of Health database and we were able to acquire co-ordinates for 92% of these. The ratio of public health services to population changed from 1:26,000 in 1959 to 1:9300 in 1999-2002. There were 82% of the population within 5 km of a public health facility and resident in 20% of the country. Our efforts to recreate a comprehensive, spatially defined list of health service providers has identified a number of weaknesses in existing national health management information systems, which with an increased commitment and minimal costs can be redressed. This will enable geographic information systems to exploit more fully facility-based morbidity data, population distribution and health access models to target resources and monitor the ability of health sector reforms to achieve equity in service provision.