Did Saving Mothers, Giving Life Expand Timely Access to Lifesaving Care in Uganda? A Spatial District-Level Analysis of Travel Time to Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care

Glob Health Sci Pract. 2019 Mar 13;7(Suppl 1):S151-S167. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-18-00366. Print 2019 Mar 11.


Introduction: Interventions for the Saving Mothers, Giving Life (SMGL) initiative aimed to ensure all pregnant women in SMGL-supported districts have timely access to emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC). Spatial travel-time analyses provide a visualization of changes in timely access.

Methods: We compared travel-time estimates to EmONC health facilities in SMGL-supported districts in western Uganda in 2012, 2013, and 2016. To examine EmONC access, we analyzed a categorical variable of travel-time duration in 30-minute increments. Data sources included health facility assessments, geographic coordinates of EmONC facilities, geolocated population estimates of women of reproductive age (WRA), and other road network and geographic sources.

Results: The number of EmONC facilities almost tripled between 2012 and 2016, increasing geographic access to EmONC. Estimated travel time to EmONC facilities declined significantly during the 5-year period. The proportion of WRA able to access any EmONC and comprehensive EmONC (CEmONC) facility within 2 hours by motorcycle increased by 18% (from 61.3% to 72.1%, P < .01) and 37% (from 51.1% to 69.8%, P < .01), respectively from baseline to 2016. Similar increases occurred among WRA accessing EmONC and CEmONC respectively if 4-wheeled vehicles (14% and 31% increase, P < .01) could be used. Increases in timely access were also substantial for nonmotorized transportation such as walking and/or bicycling.

Conclusions: Largely due to the SMGL-supported expansion of EmONC capability, timely access to EmONC significantly improved. Our analysis developed a geographic outline of facility accessibility using multiple types of transportation. Spatial travel-time analyses, along with other EmONC indicators, can be used by planners and policy makers to estimate need and target underserved populations to achieve further gains in EmONC accessibility. In addition to increasing the number and geographic distribution of EmONC facilities, complementary efforts to make motorized transportation available are necessary to achieve meaningful increases in EmONC access.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Delivery, Obstetric / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Death / prevention & control
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Spatial Analysis
  • Time-to-Treatment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Travel / statistics & numerical data
  • Uganda / epidemiology
  • Young Adult