Whitehead Jesse, Blattner Katharina, Miller Rory, Crengle Sue, Ram Stephen, Walker Xaviour, Nixon Garry (2023) Defining catchment boundaries and their populations for Aotearoa New Zealand’s rural hospitals. Journal of Primary Health Care , -.
This study provides for the first time in NZ, a standardised description of each rural hospital’s catchment boundary and the socio-demographic characteristics of the population living within it. Confirms that NZ’s rural hospitals serve very different communities.
Included on page 1 is a very helpful box explaining in fairly simple terms, geographic units so that those of us who aren’t familiar them can at least start to understand! (K. Blattner)
Introduction: There is considerable variation in the structure and resources of New Zealand (NZ) rural hospitals; however, these have not been recently quantified and their effects on healthcare outcomes are poorly understood. Importantly, there is no standardised description of each rural hospital’s catchment boundary and the characteristics of the population living within this area.
Aim: To define and describe a catchment population for each of New Zealand’s rural hospitals.
Methods: An exploratory approach to developing catchments was employed. Geographic Information Systems were used to develop drive-time-based geographic catchments, and administrative health data (National Minimum Data Set and Primary Health Organisation Data Set) informed service utilisation-based catchments. Catchments were defined at both the Statistical Area 2 (SA2) and domicile levels, and linked to census-based population data, the Geographic Classification for Health, and the area-level New Zealand Index of Socioeconomic Deprivation (NZDep2018).
Results: Our results highlight considerable heterogeneity in the size (max: 57 564, min: 5226) and characteristics of populations served by rural hospitals. Substantial differences in the age structure, ethnic composition, socio-economic profile, ‘remoteness’ and projected future populations, are noted.
Discussion: In providing a standardised description of each rural hospital’s catchment boundary and its population characteristics, the considerable heterogeneity of the communities served by rural hospitals, both in size, rurality and socio-demographic characteristics, is highlighted. The findings provide a platform on which to build further research regarding NZ’s rural hospitals and inform the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective and equitable health care for people living in rural NZ.
Keywords: catchment populations, Geographic classification for health, geography, health services, rural communities, rural health, rural health inequities, rural hospitals.