Impact of traffic, poverty and facility ownership on travel time to emergency care in Nairobi, Kenya

Maya S. Fraser, Benjamin W. Wachira, Abraham D. Flaxman, Aaron Y. Lee, Herbert C. Duber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In many low and middle-income countries (LMICs), timely access to emergency healthcare services is limited. In urban settings, traffic can have a significant impact on travel time, leading to life-threatening delays for time-sensitive injuries and medical emergencies. In this study, we examined travel times to hospitals in Nairobi, Kenya, one of the largest and most congested cities in the developing world. Methods: We used a network approach to estimate average minimum travel times to different types of hospitals (e.g. ownership and level of care) in Nairobi under both congested and uncongested traffic conditions. We also examined the correlation between travel time and socioeconomic status. Results: We estimate the average minimum travel time during uncongested traffic conditions to any level 4 health facility (primary hospitals) or above in Nairobi to be 4.5 min (IQR 2.5–6.1). Traffic added an average of 9.0 min (a 200% increase). In uncongested conditions, we estimate an average travel time of 7.9 min (IQR 5.1–10.4) to level 5 facilities (secondary hospitals) and 11.6 min (IQR 8.5–14.2) to Kenyatta National Hospital, the only level 6 facility (tertiary hospital) in the country. Traffic congestion added an average of 13.1 and 16.0 min (166% and 138% increase) to travel times to level 5 and level 6 facilities, respectively. For individuals living below the poverty line, we estimate that preferential use of public or faith-based facilities could increase travel time by as much as 65%. Conclusion: Average travel times to health facilities capable of providing emergency care in Nairobi are quite low, but traffic congestion double or triple estimated travel times. Furthermore, we estimate significant disparities in timely access to care for those individuals living under the poverty line who preferentially seek care in public or faith-based facilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-45
Number of pages6
JournalAfrican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Emergency care
  • Kenya
  • Poverty
  • Traffic


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