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Combining survey data, GIS and qualitative interviews in the analysis of health service access for persons with disabilities



Equitable access to health services is a key ingredient in reaching health for persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. So far, research on access to health services in low- and middle-income countries has largely relied on self-reported survey data. Realizing that there may be substantial discrepancies between perceived and actual access, other methods are needed for more precise knowledge to guide health policy and planning. The objective of this article is to describe and discuss an innovative methodological triangulation where statistical and spatial analysis of perceived distance and objective measures of access is combined with qualitative evidence.


The data for the study was drawn from a large household and individual questionnaire based survey carried out in Namibia and Malawi. The survey data was combined with spatial data of respondents and health facilities, key informant interviews and focus group discussions. To analyse access and barriers to access, a model is developed that takes into account both measured and perceived access. The geo-referenced survey data is used to establish four outcome categories of perceived and measured access as either good or poor. Combined with analyses of the terrain and the actual distance from where the respondents live to the health facility they go to, the data allows for categorising areas and respondents according to the four outcome categories. The four groups are subsequently analysed with respect to variation in individual characteristics and vulnerability factors. The qualitative component includes participatory map drawing and is used to gain further insight into the mechanisms behind the different combinations of perceived and actual access.


Preliminary results show that there are substantial discrepancies between perceived and actual access to health services and the qualitative study provides insight into mechanisms behind such divergences.


The novel combination of survey data, geographical data and qualitative data will generate a model on access to health services in poor contexts that will feed into efforts to improve access for the most vulnerable people in underserved areas.
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Academic literature review


  • EC/FP7 / 223501
  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 250815





  • SINTEF Digital / Health Research
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • University of Malawi
  • University of Namibia



Published in

BMC International Health and Human Rights




BioMed Central (BMC)





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