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Objectives:Skilled birth attendance is the single most important intervention to reduce maternal mortality. However, studies have not used routinely collected health service birth data at named health facilities to understand the influence of distance and quality of care on childbirth service utilisation. Thus, this paper aims to quantify the influence of distance and quality of healthcare on utilisation of birthing services using routine health data in Eastern Region, Ghana. Methods:We used a spatial interaction model (a model that predicts movement from one place to another) drawing on routine birth data, emergency obstetric care surveys, gridded estimates of number of pregnancies and health facility location. We compared travel distances by sociodemographic characteristics and mapped movement patterns. Results:A kilometre increase in distance significantly reduced the prevalence rate of the number of women giving birth in health facilities by 6.7%. Although quality care increased the number of women giving birth in health facilities, its association was insignificant. Women travelled further than expected to give birth at facilities, on average journeying 4.7 km beyond the nearest facility with a recorded birth. Women in rural areas travelled 4 km more than urban women to reach a hospital. We also observed that 56% of women bypassed the nearest hospital to their community. Conclusion:This analysis provides substantial opportunities for health planners and managers to understand further patterns of skilled birth service utilisation, and demonstrates the value of routine health data. Also, it provides evidence-based information for improving maternal health service provision by targeting specific communities and health facilities.

Original publication





BMJ global health

Publication Date





School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.