Context: Access to transportation to transverse the large distances between residences and health services in rural settings is a necessity. However, little research has examined directly access to transportation in analyses of rural health care utilization.
Purpose: This analysis addresses the association of transportation and health care utilization in a rural region.
Methods: Using survey data from a sample of 1,059 households located in 12 western North Carolina counties, this analysis tests the relationship of different transportation measures to health care utilization while adjusting for the effects of personal characteristics, health characteristics, and distance.
Findings: Those who had a driver's license had 2.29 times more health care visits for chronic care and 1.92 times more visits for regular checkup care than those who did not. Respondents who had family or friends who could provide transportation had 1.58 times more visits for chronic care than those who did not. While not significant in the multivariate analysis, the small number who used public transportation had 4 more chronic care visits per year than those who did not. Age and lower health status were also associated with increased health care visits. The transportation variables that were significantly associated with health care visits suggest that the underlying conceptual frameworks, the Health Behavior Model and Hagerstrand's time geography, are useful for understanding transportation behavior.
Conclusions: Further research must address the transportation behavior related to health care and the factors that influence this behavior. This information will inform policy alternatives to address geographic barriers to health care in rural communities.