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Impact of free maternal health care policy on maternal health care utilization and perinatal mortality in Ghana: protocol design for historical cohort study
Authors: John Azaare, Patricia Akweongo, Genevieve Cecilia Aryeetey, and Duah Dwomoh
Source: Reproductive Health, DOI:
Topic(s): Health care utilization
Health equity
Maternal health
Maternal mortality
Service utilization
Country: Africa
Published: OCT 2020
Abstract: Background: Ghana introduced what has come to be known as the 'Free’ Maternal Health Care Policy (FMHCP) in 2008 via the free registration of pregnant women to the National Health Insurance Scheme to access healthcare free of charge. The policy targeted every pregnant woman in Ghana with a full benefits package covering comprehensive maternal healthcare. Purpose: This study seeks to measure the contribution of the FMHCP to maternal healthcare utilization; antenatal care uptake, and facility delivery and determine the utilization impact on stillbirth, perinatal, and neonatal deaths using quasi-experimental methods. The study will also contextualize the findings against funding constraints and operational bottlenecks surrounding the policy operations in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Methods: This study adopts a mixed-method design to estimate the treatment effect using variables generated from historical data of Ghana and Kenya Demographic and Health Survey data sets of 2008/2014, as treatment and comparison groups respectively. As DHS uses complex design, weighting will be applied to the data sets to cater for clustering and stratification at all stages of the analysis by setting the data in STATA and prefix Stata commands with ‘svy’. Thus, the policy impact will be determined using quasi-experimental designs; propensity score matching, and difference-in-differences methods. Prevalence, mean difference, and test of association between outcome and exposure variables will be achieved using the Rao Scot Chi-square. Confounding variables will be adjusted for using Poisson and multiple logistics regression models. Statistical results will be reported in proportions, regression coefficient, and risk ratios. This study then employs intrinsic-case study technique to explore the current operations of the ‘free’ policy in Ghana, using qualitative methods to obtain primary data from the Upper East Region of Ghana for an in-depth analysis. Discussion: The study discussions will show the contributions of the ‘free’ policy towards maternal healthcare utilization and its performance towards stillbirth, perinatal and neonatal healthcare outcomes. The discussions will also centre on policy designs and implementation in resource constraints settings showing how SDG3 can be achievement or otherwise. Effectiveness of policy proxy and gains in the context of social health insurance within a broader concept of population health and economic burden will also be conferred.