Access to urban acute care services in high- vs. middle-income countries: An analysis of seven cities

Shamly Austin, Srinivas Murthy, Hannah Wunsch, Neill K.J. Adhikari, Veena Karir, Kathryn Rowan, Shevin T. Jacob, Jorge Salluh, Fernando A. Bozza, Bin Du, Youzhong An, Bruce Lee, Felicia Wu, Yen Lan Nguyen, Chris Oppong, Ramesh Venkataraman, Vimalraj Velayutham, Carmelo Dueñas, Derek C. Angus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Cities are expanding rapidly in middle-income countries, but their supply of acute care services is unknown. We measured acute care services supply in seven cities of diverse economic background. Methods: In a cross-sectional study, we compared cities from two high-income (Boston, USA and Paris, France), three upper-middle-income (Bogota, Colombia; Recife, Brazil; and Liaocheng, China), and two lower-middle-income (Chennai, India and Kumasi, Ghana) countries. We collected standardized data on hospital beds, intensive care unit beds, and ambulances. Where possible, information was collected from local authorities. We expressed results per population (from United Nations) and per acute illness deaths (from Global Burden of Disease project). Results: Supply of hospital beds where intravenous fluids could be delivered varied fourfold from 72.4/100,000 population in Kumasi to 241.5/100,000 in Boston. Intensive care unit (ICU) bed supply varied more than 45-fold from 0.4/100,000 population in Kumasi to 18.8/100,000 in Boston. Ambulance supply varied more than 70-fold. The variation widened when supply was estimated relative to disease burden (e.g., ICU beds varied more than 65-fold from 0.06/100 deaths due to acute illnesses in Kumasi to 4.11/100 in Bogota; ambulance services varied more than 100-fold). Hospital bed per disease burden was associated with gross domestic product (GDP) (R 2 = 0.88, p = 0.01), but ICU supply was not (R 2 = 0.33, p = 0.18). No city provided all requested data, and only two had ICU data. Conclusions: Urban acute care services vary substantially across economic regions, only partially due to differences in GDP. Cities were poor sources of information, which may hinder their future planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-352
Number of pages11
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Acute care services
  • Ambulances
  • Global burden of disease
  • Hospital beds
  • Intensive care beds
  • Urban population

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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