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Access to women physicians and uptake of reproductive, maternal and child health services in India
Authors: Nandita Bhan, Lotus McDougal, Abhishek Singh, Yamini Atmavilas, and Anita Raj
Source: EClinicalMedicine, Published online; DOI: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100309
Topic(s): Child health
Maternal health
Country: Asia
Published: MAR 2020
Abstract: Background Low availability of women physicians in rural areas can compromise women's health care seeking, where need can be greatest. We examined the associations between availability of women physicians and maternal and child health service utilization in India. Methods We analyzed cross-sectional district-level data from all 256 districts in 18 states, from India's District-Level Household and Facility Survey (2012–13) and the National Family Health Survey (2015–16). Assessed measures included lady medical officers (LMOs) availability at Primary Health Centers (PHCs, which are largely rural serving), modern contraceptive use, antenatal care (ANC), skilled birth attendance (SBA), maternal postnatal care (PNC), infant PNC, and child immunization. Multilevel regression models nesting districts in states examined associations between LMO availability and health service utilization, adjusting for district-level socioeconomic status (SES) indicators (e.g., women's education, household water access), urbanicity, health insurance coverage and sampled PHCs (15 on average) within districts. Findings Only 72 of 256 districts (28.1%) reported >50% of PHCs with LMOs. In multivariable models, LMO availability in PHCs was associated with higher district prevalence (%) of modern contraceptive use [ß=0.04 (95% CI: 0.007, 0.08)], 4+ ANC [ß =0.07 (95% CI: 0.008, 0.13)], skilled birth attendance [ß=0.09 (0.03, 0.14) and maternal PNC [ß=0.08 (95% CI: 0.03, 0.12)], but not infant PNC or child immunization. Interpretation Higher district availability of women physicians is associated with higher maternal health care utilization but not child health care utilization. Improving gender parity in the physician workforce and rural women physician access may improve maternal health care use in India.