Distance to care is a common exposure and proposed instrumental variable in health research, but it is vulnerable to violations of fundamental identifiability conditions for causal inference. We used data collected from the Botswana Birth Outcomes Surveillance study between 2014 and 2016 to outline 4 challenges and potential biases when using distance to care as an exposure and as a proposed instrument: selection bias, unmeasured confounding, lack of sufficiently well-defined interventions, and measurement error. We describe how these issues can arise, and we propose sensitivity analyses for estimating the degree of bias.

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Keywords causal diagrams, causal inference, distance to care, identifiability conditions, instrumental variables, selection bias, unmeasured confounding, well-defined interventions
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwz121, hdl.handle.net/1765/119609
Journal American Journal of Epidemiology
Caniglia, E.C. (Ellen C.), Zash, R. (Rebecca), Swanson, S.A, Wirth, K.E. (Kathleen E.), Diseko, M. (Modiegi), Mayondi, G. (Gloria), … Shapiro, R.L. (Roger L.). (2019). Methodological Challenges When Studying Distance to Care as an Exposure in Health Research. American Journal of Epidemiology, 188(9), 1674–1681. doi:10.1093/aje/kwz121