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Maternal and Child Health Inequalities Found Worldwide

Country-level and intervention-level disparities seen in national surveys

FRIDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- As part of Countdown to 2015, substantial variation has been identified between countries and interventions with respect to coverage levels of maternal, neonatal, and child health interventions, according to a study published in the March 31 issue of The Lancet.

In order to continue tracking the progress toward achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, Aluísio J.D. Barros, Ph.D., from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, and colleagues reanalyzed data from 12 national surveys conducted in 54 Countdown to 2015 countries between January 2000 and December 2008. Country-level and intervention-level variations in maternal, newborn, and child health interventions were assessed.

The researchers found that the least equitable intervention was skilled birth attendant coverage, followed by four or more antenatal care visits. In contrast, early initiation of breastfeeding was the most equitable intervention. For the interventions examined, Chad, Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Laos, and Niger were the most inequitable countries, followed by Madagascar, Pakistan, and India. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan were the most equitable countries. Interventions based in the community were more equitable than those delivered in health facilities. The variability in coverage between countries was larger for the poorest than the richest individuals, for all interventions studied.

"The Countdown to 2015 process is an excellent example of use of rigorously collected data to monitor health programs and improve health outcomes," write the authors of an accompanying editorial. "Similar data can be used across and within countries to assess disparities in care provision, which makes this process especially valuable."

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