Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Determining health-care facility catchment areas in Uganda using data on malaria-related visits

Kate Zinszer, Katia Charland, Ruth Kigozi, Grant Dorsey, Moses R Kamya & David L Buckeridge


To illustrate the use of a new method for defining the catchment areas of health-care facilities based on their utilization.


The catchment areas of six health-care facilities in Uganda were determined using the cumulative case ratio: the ratio of the observed to expected utilization of a facility for a particular condition by patients from small administrative areas. The cumulative case ratio for malaria-related visits to these facilities was determined using data from the Uganda Malaria Surveillance Project. Catchment areas were also derived using various straight line and road network distances from the facility. Subsequently, the 1-year cumulative malaria case rate was calculated for each catchment area, as determined using the three methods.


The 1-year cumulative malaria case rate varied considerably with the method used to define the catchment areas. With the cumulative case ratio approach, the catchment area could include noncontiguous areas. With the distance approaches, the denominator increased substantially with distance, whereas the numerator increased only slightly. The largest cumulative case rate per 1000 population was for the Kamwezi facility: 234.9 (95% confidence interval, CI: 226.2–243.8) for a straight-line distance of 5 km, 193.1 (95% CI: 186.8–199.6) for the cumulative case ratio approach and 156.1 (95% CI: 150.9–161.4) for a road network distance of 5 km.


Use of the cumulative case ratio for malaria-related visits to determine health-care facility catchment areas was feasible. Moreover, this approach took into account patients’ actual addresses, whereas using distance from the facility did not.