An understanding of spatial patterns of health facility use allows a more informed approach to the modelling of catchment populations. In the absence of patient use data, an intuitive and commonly used approach to the delineation of facility catchment areas is Thiessen polygons. This study presents a series of methods by which the validity of these assumptions can be tested directly and hence the suitability of a Thiessen polygon catchment model explicitly assessed. These methods are applied to paediatric out-patient origin data from a sample of 81 government health facilities in four districts of Kenya. A geographical information system was used to predict the location of the catchment boundary along a transect between each pair of neighbouring facilities based on patient choice patterns. The mean location of boundaries between facilities of different type was found to be significantly displaced from the Thiessen boundary towards the lower-order facility. The affect of distance on within-catchment utilization rate was assessed by using exclusion buffers to remove the effect of neighbouring facilities. Utilization rate was found to exhibit a slight but steady decrease with distance up to 6 km from a facility. The accuracy of the future modelling of unsampled facility catchments can be increased by the incorporation of these trends
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