Associations between access to healthcare, environmental quality, and end-stage renal disease survival time: Proportional-hazards models of over 1,000,000 people over 14 years

PLoS One. 2019 Mar 21;14(3):e0214094. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214094. eCollection 2019.


Prevalence of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in the US increased by 74% from 2000 to 2013. To investigate the role of the broader environment on ESRD survival time, we evaluated average distance to the nearest hospital by county (as a surrogate for access to healthcare) and the Environmental Quality Index (EQI), an aggregate measure of ambient environmental quality composed of five domains (air, water, land, built, and sociodemographic), at the county level across the US. Associations between average hospital distance, EQI, and survival time for 1,092,281 people diagnosed with ESRD between 2000 and 2013 (age 18+, without changes in county residence) from the US Renal Data System were evaluated using proportional-hazards models adjusting for gender, race, age at first ESRD service date, BMI, alcohol and tobacco use, and rurality. The models compared the average distance to the nearest hospital (<10, 10-20, >20 miles) and overall EQI percentiles [0-5), [5-20), [20-40), [40-60), [60-80), [80-95), and [95-100], where lower percentiles are interpreted as better EQI. In the full, non-stratified model with both distance and EQI, there was increased survival for patients over 20 miles from a hospital compared to those under 10 miles from a hospital (hazard ratio = 1.14, 95% confidence interval = 1.12-1.15) and no consistent direction of association across EQI strata. In the full model stratified by average hospital distance, under 10 miles from a hospital had increased survival in the worst EQI strata (median survival 3.0 vs. 3.5 years for best vs. worst EQI, respectively), however for people over 20 miles from a hospital, median survival was higher in the best (4.2 years) vs worst (3.4 years) EQI. This association held across different rural/urban categories and age groups. These results demonstrate the importance of considering multiple factors when studying ESRD survival and future efforts should consider additional components of the broader environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Water Quality
  • Young Adult