How far?: Using geographical information systems (GIS) to examine maternity care access for expectant mothers in a rural state

Soc Work Health Care. 2011;50(9):682-93. doi: 10.1080/00981389.2011.575537.


Various factors have made rural access to maternity care a significant problem for rural women. The geographic distance between a mother's county of residence and the county in which she gave birth was examined in a rural state. Analyzing North Dakota county-level data using geographic information system (GIS) software, women from over half of the state's counties, making up nearly 18% of all births, were found to be over 40 miles to the hospital in which they gave birth. These findings suggest that rural women may experience significant geographic barriers as they receive health services in the prenatal, delivery, and postpartum periods of their pregnancy. We highlight the value of GIS, particularly geovisualization power, and note models of care that may be effective for rural women.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • North Dakota
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Health
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*