Routine Healthcare Utilization Among Reproductive-Age Women Residing in a Rural Maternity Care Desert

Natalie A. DiPietro Mager, Terrell W. Zollinger, Jack E. Turman, Jianjun Zhang, Brian E. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


It is important that women of reproductive age have access to and use routine health services to improve birth outcomes. While it is estimated that more than 5 million women in over 1000 counties across the United States live in maternity care deserts, to date there have been no published studies characterizing access and barriers to routine healthcare utilization in these areas. Therefore, a cross-sectional study was conducted in a rural county in northwest Ohio with 315 women ages 18–45 years. Health insurance coverage, usual source of care, length of time since routine check-up, and barriers to receipt of health services were assessed via a self-reported, anonymous survey. Over one-tenth (11.3%) of participants reported having no health insurance coverage. A total of 14.4% reported having no usual source of care and 22.8% reported not having a routine check-up in the past year. Just over one-half (53.0%) of participants reported having at least one barrier to accessing health care. In a logistic regression analysis, having a routine check-up in the past year was inversely associated with number of barriers (OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.56–0.95; p = 0.019); women who reported more barriers were less likely to report receipt of preventive care in the past year. The results of this study reveal that many reproductive-age women living in a maternity care desert face challenges in accessing health services. Policies and programs need to be developed and implemented to close these gaps and maximize opportunities for optimal health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Community Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Access to care
  • Rural health
  • Women’s health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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