No increase in use of hospitals for childbirth in Tanzania over 25 years: Accumulation of inequity among poor, rural, high parity women

Manuela Straneo, Lenka Beňová, Thomas van den Akker, Andrea B. Pembe, Tom Smekens, Claudia Hanson

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Improving childbirth care in rural settings in sub-Saharan Africa is essential to attain the commitment expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind. In Tanzania, the period between 1991 and 2016 was characterized by health system expansion prioritizing primary health care and a rise in rural facility births from 45% to 54%. Facilities however are not all the same, with advanced management of childbirth complications generally only available in hospitals and routine childbirth care in primary facilities. We hypothesized that inequity in the use of hospital-based childbirth may have increased over this period, and that it may have particularly affected high parity (≥5) women. We analysed records of 16,080 women from five Tanzanian Demographic and Health Surveys (1996, 1999, 2004, 2010, 2015/6), using location of the most recent birth as outcome (home, primary health care facility or hospital), wealth and parity as exposure variables and demographic and obstetric characteristics as potential confounders. A multinomial logistic regression model with wealth/parity interaction was run and post-estimation margins analysis produced percentages of births for various combinations of wealth and parity for each survey. We found no reduction in inequity in this 25-year period. Among poorest women, lowest use of hospital-based childbirth (around 10%) was at high parity, with no change over time. In women having their first baby, hospital use increased over time but with a widening pro-rich gap (poorest women predicted use increased from 36 to 52% and richest from 40 to 59%). We found that poor rural women of high parity were a vulnerable group requiring specifically targeted interventions to ensure they receive effective childbirth care. To leave no one behind, it is essential to look beyond the average coverage of facility births, as such a limited focus masks different patterns and time trends among marginalised groups.
Original languageDutch
Article numbere0000345
JournalPLoS Global Public Health
Issue number8
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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