Summary Distance is a crucial feature of health service use and yet its application and utility to health care planning have not been well explored, particularly in the light of large-scale international and national efforts such as Roll Back Malaria. We have developed a high-resolution
map of population-to-service access in four districts of Kenya. Theoretical physical access, based upon national targets, developed as part of the Kenyan health sector reform agenda, was compared with actual health service usage data among 1668 paediatric patients attending 81 sampled government
health facilities. Actual and theoretical use were highly correlated. Patients in the larger districts of Kwale and Makueni, where access to government health facilities was relatively poor, travelled greater mean distances than those in Greater Kisii and Bondo. More than 60% of the patients
in the four districts attended health facilities within a 5-km range. Interpolated physical access surfaces across districts highlighted areas of poor access and large differences between urban and rural settings. Users from rural communities travelled greater distances to health facilities
than those in urban communities. The implications of planning and monitoring equitable delivery of clinical services at national and international levels are discussed.