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Examining inequality of opportunity in the use of maternal and reproductive health interventions in Sierra Leone
Authors: Mluleki Tsawe, and A Sathiya Susuman
Source: Journal of Public Health, Published online; DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdz023
Topic(s): Antenatal care
Delivery care
Health care utilization
Health equity
Institutional births
Maternal health
Country: Africa
  Sierra Leone
Published: MAR 2019
Abstract: Background Poor countries, such as Sierra Leone, often have poor health outcomes, whereby the majority of the population cannot access lifesaving health services. Access to, and use of, maternal and reproductive health services is crucial for human development, especially in developing regions. However, inequality remains a persistent problem for many developing countries. Moreover, we have not found empirical studies, which have examined inequalities in maternal and reproductive health in Sierra Leone. Method We used data collected from the Sierra Leone Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) conducted in 2008 and 2013. Five maternal and reproductive health indicators were selected for this study, including four or more antenatal care visits, skilled antenatal care provider, births delivered in a facility, births assisted by a skilled birth attendant, and any method of contraception. To measure inequalities, we adopted the Human Opportunity Index (HOI). Using this measure, we measured differentials over the two periods, and decomposed it to measure the contribution of the selected circumstance variables to inequality. Results Inequalities declined over time, as shown by the decrease in the dissimilarity index. Due to the drop in the dissimilarity index, the HOI increased for all the selected maternal and reproductive health indicators. Moreover, antenatal services were closer to equality compared to the other selected services. Overall, we found that household wealth status, maternal education and place of residence, are the most important factors contributing to the inequality in the use of maternal and reproductive health services. Conclusions Even though there are improvements in inequalities over time, there are variations in the way in which inequality within the different indicators has improved. In order to improve the use of maternal and reproductive health services, and to reduce inequalities in these services, the government will have to invest in: (i) increasing the educational levels of women, (ii) improving the standard of living, as well as (iii) bringing maternal and reproductive health services closer to rural populations. Keywords: dissimilarity index, human opportunity index, inequality of opportunity, maternal and reproductive health services, shapley decomposition Topic: contraceptive methods, mothers, reproductive physiological process, sierra leone, prenatal care, reproductive health services