The evolution of socioeconomic status-related inequalities in maternal health care utilization: evidence from Zimbabwe, 1994-2011
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Background: Inequalities in maternal health care are pervasive in the developing world, a fact that has led to questions about the extent of these disparities across socioeconomic groups. Despite a growing literature on maternal health across Sub-Saharan African countries, relatively little is known about the evolution of these inequalities over time for specific countries. This study sought to quantify and explain the observed differences in prenatal care use and professional delivery assistance in Zimbabwe. Methods: The empirical analysis uses four rounds of the nationwide Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey administered in 1994, 1999, 2005/06 and 2010/11. Two binary indicators were used as measures of maternal health care utilization; (1) the receipt of four or more antenatal care visits and (2) receiving professional delivery assistance for the most recent pregnancy. We measure inequalities in maternal health care use using the Erreygers corrected concentration index. A decomposition analysis was conducted to determine the underlying drivers of the measured disparities. Results: The computed concentration indices for professional delivery assistance and prenatal care reveal a mostly pro-rich distribution of inequalities between 1994 and 2011. Particularly, the concentration index [95% confidence interval] for the receipt of prenatal care was 0.111 [0.056, 0.171] in 2005/06 and 0.094 [0.057, 0.138] in 2010/11. For professional delivery assistance, the concentration index stood at 0.286 [0.244, 0.329] in 2005/06 and 0.324 [0.283, 0.366] in 2010/11. The pro-rich inequality was also increasing in both rural and urban areas over time. The decomposition exercise revealed that wealth, education, religion and information access were the underlying drivers of the observed inequalities in maternal health care. Conclusions: In Zimbabwe, socioeconomic disparities in maternal health care use are mostly pro-rich and have widened over time regardless of the location of residence. Overall, we established that inequalities in wealth and education are amongst the top drivers of the observed disparities in maternal health care. These findings suggest that addressing inequalities in maternal health care utilization requires coordinated public policies targeting the more poor and vulnerable segments of the population in Zimbabwe.
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