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Using geographical analysis to identify child health inequality in sub-Saharan Africa
Authors: Jennifer Yourkavitch, Clara Burgert-Brucker, Shireen Assaf, and Stephen Delgado
Source: PLOS ONE , 13(8):e0201870; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0201870
Topic(s): Child health
Health equity
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: AUG 2018
Abstract: One challenge to achieving Millennium Development Goals was inequitable access to quality health services. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, interventions need to reach underserved populations. Analyzing health indicators in small geographic units aids the identification of hotspots where coverage lags behind neighboring areas. The purpose of these analyses is to identify areas of low coverage or high need in order to inform effective resource allocation to reduce child health inequity between and within countries. Using data from The Demographic and Health Survey Program surveys conducted in 27 selected African countries between 2010 and 2014, we computed estimates for six child health indicators for subnational regions. We calculated Global Moran's I statistics and used Local Indicator of Spatial Association analysis to produce a spatial layer showing spatial associations. We created maps to visualize sub-national autocorrelation and spatial clusters. The Global Moran's I statistic was positive for each indicator (range: 0.41 to 0.68), and statistically significant (p <0.05), suggesting spatial autocorrelation across national borders, and highlighting the need to examine health indicators both across countries and within them. Patterns of substantial differences among contiguous subareas were apparent; the average intra-country difference for each indicator exceeded 20 percentage points. Clusters of cross-border associations were also apparent, facilitating the identification of hotspots and informing the allocation of resources to reduce child health inequity between and within countries. This study exposes differences in health indicators in contiguous geographic areas, indicating that specific regional and subnational, in addition to national, strategies to improve health and reduce health inequalities are warranted.