Access to community pharmacies by the elderly in Illinois: a geographic information systems analysis

J Med Syst. 2004 Jun;28(3):301-9. doi: 10.1023/b:joms.0000032846.20676.94.


Community pharmacies play an important role in maintaining population health in the United States. They are large in number, distribute widely across geographic areas, and operate for long hours. Because the elderly population tends to use more medications and have more frequent interaction with pharmacies and pharmacists, this study was carried out to understand the geographic access to community pharmacies by the elderly in Illinois and to estimate the disparity in the access between rural and urban areas. The addresses of all community pharmacies operating in 2001 were geocoded to identify their locations. The Census 2000 data on demographics at the census block group level was used to estimate the geographic distribution of the Illinois population by age group. Using the centroid of each census block group and the locations of community pharmacies, the distance to a nearest pharmacy for each census block group was calculated. The distance was then weighted to compute the aggregated distance required for the elderly to access a pharmacy. There were 1373 community pharmacies operating in Illinois in 2001. Most pharmacies (93.8%) were located in urban areas. On average, there were 1.27 and 0.38 pharmacies per 10,000 people in urban and rural areas, respectively. The average distance for an elderly person in Illinois to locate a community pharmacy was 0.9 miles in urban areas, but it was six times more (5.9 miles) in rural areas. At least 10% of the rural elderly had to travel more than 11.8 miles to find a community pharmacy, but only 0.1% had to travel more than 20 miles. The geographic access to community pharmacies appears to be appropriate in Illinois. However, a small portion of rural elderly who do not have a pharmacy in their nearby areas may warrant special attention.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Censuses
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Illinois
  • Pharmacies / supply & distribution*
  • Rural Population
  • Urban Population