With the objective of choosing a practical and valid method to delimit health service areas of regional health service centres to build a regional basic health service network, we first drew lessons from traditional geographic methods of delimiting trade areas and then applied two methods to delimit health service areas, i.e. the proximal method and the gravity method. We verified the effectiveness of these methods by an index of similarity with the aid of real in-patient data. Calculation of the similarity indices shows that health service areas delimited by the proximal method has an 87.3% similarity to the real health service area, while the gravity method gives 88.6%. Our conclusion is that both methods are suitable for delimiting health service areas at regional health service centres, but find that the proximal method is more practicable in operational terms for delimiting health service areas in region health planning.
Health service area; Basic health service; Regional health planning; GIS; Chinese health system reform