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Health facility delivery in sub-Saharan Africa: successes, challenges, and implications for the 2030 development agenda
Authors: Henry V. Doctor, Sangwani Nkhana-Salimu, and Maryam Abdulsalam-Anibilowo
Source: BMC Public Health, 18(1): 765; DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-5695-z
Topic(s): Delivery care
Health care utilization
Institutional births
Maternal health
Maternal mortality
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: JUN 2018
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the regions with modest health outcomes; and evidenced by high maternal mortality ratios and under-5 mortality rates. There are complications that occur during and following pregnancy and childbirth that can contribute to maternal deaths; most of which are preventable or treatable. Evidence shows that early and regular attendance of antenatal care and delivery in a health facility under the supervision of trained personnel is associated with improved maternal health outcomes. The aim of this study is to assess changes in and determinants of health facility delivery using nationally representative surveys in sub-Saharan Africa. This study also seeks to present renewed evidence on the determinants of health facility delivery within the context of the Agenda for Sustainable Development to generate evidence-based decision making and enable deployment of targeted interventions to improve health facility delivery and maternal and child health outcomes. METHODS: We used pooled data from 58 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) conducted between 1990 and 2015 in 29 sub-Saharan African countries. This yielded a total of 1.1 million births occurring in the 5 years preceding the surveys. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the counts and proportions of women who delivered by place of delivery and their background characteristics at the time of delivery. We used multilevel logistic regression model to estimate the magnitude of association in the form of odds ratios between place of delivery and the predictors. RESULTS: Results show that births among women in the richest wealth quintile were 68% more likely to occur in health facilities than births among women in the lowest wealth quintile. Women with at least primary education were twice more likely to give birth in facilities than women with no formal education. Births from more recent surveys conducted since 2010 were 85% more likely to occur in facilities than births reported in earliest (1990s) surveys. Overall, the proportion of births occurring in facilities was 2% higher than would be expected; and varies by country and sub-Saharan African region. CONCLUSIONS: Proven interventions to increase health facility delivery should focus on addressing inequities associated with maternal education, women empowerment, increased access to health facilities as well as narrowing the gap between the rural and the urban areas. We further discuss these results within the agenda of leaving no one behind by 2030. KEYWORDS: Health facility birth; Maternal mortality; Neonatal mortality; Skilled birth attendants; Sub-Saharan Africa