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State of inequality in malaria intervention coverage in sub-Saharan African countries
Authors: Katya Galactionova, Thomas A. Smith, Don de Savigny, and Melissa A. Penny
Source: BMC Medicine, 15:185; DOI 10.1186/s12916-017-0948-8
Topic(s): Inequality
Wealth Index
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: OCT 2017
Abstract: Background Scale-up of malaria interventions over the last decade have yielded a significant reduction in malaria transmission and disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa. We estimated economic gradients in the distribution of these efforts and of their impacts within and across endemic countries. Methods Using Demographic and Health Surveys we computed equity metrics to characterize the distribution of malaria interventions in 30 endemic countries proxying economic position with an asset-wealth index. Gradients were summarized in a concentration index, tabulated against level of coverage, and compared among interventions, across countries, and against respective trends over the period 2005–2015. Results There remain broad differences in coverage of malaria interventions and their distribution by wealth within and across countries. In most, economic gradients are lacking or favor the poorest for vector control; malaria services delivered through the formal healthcare sector are much less equitable. Scale-up of interventions in many countries improved access across the wealth continuum; in some, these efforts consistently prioritized the poorest. Expansions in control programs generally narrowed coverage gaps between economic strata; gradients persist in countries where growth was slower in the poorest quintile or where baseline inequality was large. Despite progress, malaria is consistently concentrated in the poorest, with the degree of inequality in burden far surpassing that expected given gradients in the distribution of interventions. Conclusions Economic gradients in the distribution of interventions persist over time, limiting progress toward equity in malaria control. We found that, in countries with large baseline inequality in the distribution of interventions, even a small bias in expansion favoring the least poor yielded large gradients in intervention coverage while pro-poor growth failed to close the gap between the poorest and least poor. We demonstrated that dimensions of disadvantage compound for the poor; a lack of economic gradients in the distribution of malaria services does not translate to equity in coverage nor can it be interpreted to imply equity in distribution of risk or disease burden. Our analysis testifies to the progress made by countries in narrowing economic gradients in malaria interventions and highlights the scope for continued monitoring of programs with respect to equity. Keywords Malaria – Malaria intervention coverage – Equity – Concentration index – Asset-wealth quintiles – DHS