Using GIS to Understand the Influence of Hurricane Harvey on Spatial Access to Primary Care

Armita Kar, Neng Wan, Thomas J. Cova, Hongmei Wang, Steven L. Lizotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Hurricanes can have a significant impact on the functioning and capacity of healthcare systems. However, little work has been done to understand the extent to which hurricanes influence local residents’ spatial access to healthcare. Our study evaluates the change in spatial access to primary care physicians (PCPs) between 2016 and 2018 (i.e., before and after Hurricane Harvey) in Harris County, Texas. We used an enhanced 2-step floating catchment area (E2SFCA) method to measure spatial access to PCPs at the census tract level. The results show that, despite an increased supply of PCPs across the county, most census tracts, especially those in the northern and eastern fringe areas, experienced decreased access during this period as measured by the spatial access ratio (SPAR). We explain this decline in SPAR by the shift in the spatial distribution of PCPs to the central areas of Harris County from the fringe areas after Harvey. We also examined the socio-demographic impact in the SPAR change and found little variation in change among different socio-demographic groups. Therefore, public health professionals and disaster managers may use our spatial access measure to highlight the geographic disparities in healthcare systems. In addition, we recommend considering other social and institutional dimensions of access, such as users’ needs, preferences, resource capacity, mobility options, and quality of healthcare services, in building a resilient and inclusive post-hurricane healthcare system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)896-911
Number of pages16
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Enhanced 2-step floating catchment area (E2SFCA)
  • GIS
  • hurricane
  • primary care physicians (PCP)
  • spatial access

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


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