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Examining the impact of WHO’s Focused Antenatal Care policy on early access, underutilisation and quality of antenatal care services in Malawi: a retrospective study
Authors: Martina Mchenga, Ronelle Burger, and Dieter von Fintel
Source: BMC Health Services Research, 19(1): 1-14; DOI: 10.1186/s12913-019-4130-1
Topic(s): Antenatal care
Health care utilization
Maternal health
Country: Africa
Published: MAY 2019
Abstract: Background A variety of antenatal care models have been implemented in low and middle-income countries over the past decades, as proposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). One such model is the 2001 Focused Antenatal Care (FANC) programme. FANC recommended a minimum of four visits for women with uncomplicated pregnancies and emphasised quality of care to improve both maternal and neonatal outcomes. Malawi adopted FANC in 2003, however, up to now no study has been done to analyse the model’s performance with regards to antenatal care service quality and utilisation patterns. Methods The paper is based on data pooled from three comparable nationally representative Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (MDHS) datasets (2000, 2004 and 2010). The DHS collects data on demographics, socio-economic indicators, antenatal care, and the fertility history of reproductive women aged between 15 and 49. We pooled a sample of 8545 women who had a live birth in the last 5 years prior to each survey. We measure the impact of FANC on early access to care, underutilisation of care and quality of care with interrupted time series analysis. This method enables us to track changes in both levels and the trends of our outcome variables. Results We find that FANC is associated with earlier access to care. However, it has also been associated with unintended increases in underutilisation. We see no change in the quality of ANC services. Conclusion In light of the WHO 2016 ANC guidelines, which recommend an increase of visits to eight, these results are important. Given that we find underutilisation when the benchmark is set at four visits, eight visits are unlikely to be feasible in low-resource settings.