Small Urban and Rural Center on Mobility

SURTC Report on Transportation and Access to Health Care Released

A new SURTC report titled "Transportation, Distance, and Health Care Utilization for Older Adults in Rural and Small Urban Areas" by Jeremy Mattson is now available online.

In this study, Mattson estimated the impacts of transportation and geography on use of health care services by adults aged 60 or older in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. There is evidence that health care usage is lower in rural areas, and this research studied whether long travel distances to health care facilities play a role and whether ability to drive, access to public transportation, or having others in the household who can drive have any influence on the number of health care trips taken. Other objectives were to find how many missed trips there are due to lack of transportation and estimate the characteristics of those people who miss trips, to determine how much older adults rely on public transportation for medical trips, to discover the concerns older adults have with using public transportation for medical trips, and to estimate the demand for using public transportation for medical trips among those who do not currently have access to transit.

The study received survey results from 543 individuals 60 years of age or older living in these four, largely rural, Upper Great Plains states. An analysis of the data found that those who needed care were generally able to access it. However, those who cannot drive were found to make more trips if someone else in the household can drive, and individuals traveling longer distances or those with fewer transportation options were more likely to report difficulties in making trips or to delay a trip. If someone delays a trip, he or she may not get the care at the time it is most needed.

By providing transportation to health care services, especially preventive care, people can manage their conditions better, their health status may improve, and in the long-run there could be a decrease in health care costs. The greatest problems reported for using public transportation were inconvenient schedules and infrequent service.

For more information, email Jeremy Mattson (

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