How far is it to the nearest hospital? Calculating distances using the Statistics Canada Postal Code Conversion File

Health Rep. 1993;5(2):179-88.
[Article in English, French]


This report demonstrates how to calculate distances between points described in terms of latitude and longitude, using the Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) and other files available from the Geography Division of Statistics Canada. Examples based on hospital data show how the results can be summarized in the form of tables, figures, or maps. Aerial distance to the nearest hospital is a crude but objective indicator of geographic accessibility to hospital services. Distances were calculated between enumeration area centroids for the population and blockface or enumeration area centroids for the hospitals. The median aerial distance to the nearest hospital facility in Canada was less than 3 km, while the mean distance was about 6 km. For teaching hospitals, the median aerial distance was a little less than 30 km, while the mean distance was a little more than 90 km. As most health files for administrative and research purposes contain postal codes, these techniques have potentially wide application.

MeSH terms

  • Abstracting and Indexing* / statistics & numerical data
  • Canada
  • Catchment Area, Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Postal Service / classification*
  • Postal Service / statistics & numerical data
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Rural Population
  • Urban Population