Impact of the free healthcare initiative on wealth-related inequity in the utilization of maternal & child health services in Sierra Leone

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Health Services Research, 2019, 19 (1)
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© 2019 The Author(s). Background: As a result of financial barriers to the utilization of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services, the Government of Sierra Leone launched the Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI) in 2010. This study aimed to examine the impact of the FHCI on wealth related inequity in the utilization of three MCH services. Methods: We analysed data from 2008 to 2013 Sierra Leone Demographic Health Surveys (SLDHS) using 2008 SLDHS as a baseline. Seven thousand three hundred seventy-four and 16,658 women of reproductive age were interviewed in the 2008 and 2013 SLDHS respectively. We employed a binomial logistic regression to evaluate wealth related inequity in the utilization of institutional delivery. Concentration curves and indices were used to measure the inequity in the utilization of antenatal care (ANC) visits and postnatal care (PNC) reviews. Test of significance was performed for the difference in odds and concentration indexes obtained for the 2008 and 2013 SLDHS. Results: There was an overall improvement in the utilization of MCH services following the FHCI with a 30% increase in institutional delivery rate, 24% increment in more than four focused ANC visits and 33% increment in complete PNC reviews. Wealth related inequity in institutional delivery has increased but to the advantage of the rich, highly educated, and urban residents. Results of the inequity statistics demonstrate that PNC reviews were more equally distributed in 2008 than ANC visits, and, in 2013, the poorest respondents ranked by wealth index utilized more PNC reviews than their richest counterparts. For ANC visits, the change in concentration index was from 0.008331[95% CI (0.008188, 0.008474)] in 2008 to - 0.002263 [95% CI (- 0.002322, - 0.002204)] in 2013. The change in concentration index for PNC reviews was from - 0.001732 [95% CI (- 0.001746, - 0.001718)] in 2008 to - 0.001771 [95% CI (- 0.001779, - 0.001763)] in 2013. All changes were significant (p value < 0.001). Conclusion: The FHCI appears to be improving access to and utilization of MCH services, narrowing the inequity in ANC visits and PNC reviews, but is insufficient in addressing wealth- related inequity that exists for institutional deliveries. If Sierra Leone is to realize a significant reduction in maternal and child mortality rates, it needs to strengthen the effective implementation of FHCI considering incorporating a sector wide approach (SWAp) or a "Health in all Policy" framework to reach the less educated, rural residents and ensuring culturally sensitive quality services.
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