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An Empirical Examination of the Inequality of Forgone Care in India
Authors: Bryan Patenaude, Krishna D. Rao, and David H. Peters
Source: Health Systems and Reform, Vol. 7, No. 2; DOI:
Topic(s): Antenatal care
Institutional births
Country: Asia
Published: JUL 2021
Abstract: Understanding how well a health system is meeting the needs of the population is critical to achieving the policy aspirations of universal health coverage. This study focuses on assessing the inequity of forgone care for priority maternal and child health services across India. We utilize data from the 4th round of the Indian National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) to examine inequality of forgone care. Our outcomes include forgone institutional delivery, antenatal care, medical care for a child with fever or cough, and medical care for a child with diarrhea. Wagstaff’s standardized concentration indices (CIs) are computed at the national level, over urban and rural sub-populations, and by state. Regression decomposition is performed to determine the influence of specific drivers on overall inequality. There was significant variation in the national-level prevalence and CIs for forgone antenatal care (17.8%, CI: -0.423), forgone medical care for a child with fever or cough (32.4%, CI: -0.199), forgone medical care for a child with diarrhea (33.8%, CI: -0.172), and forgone institutional delivery (24.5%, CI: -0.436). For all outcomes, forgone care is disproportionately concentrated among the poor, particularly in rural areas. There is also significant heterogeneity in state-level inequalities. Decomposition analyses show that socioeconomic status, maternal education, rural status, and state-level per capita health spending are the leading drivers of observed inequalities in forgone care. Results suggest attending to both the operation and financing of India’s health care system as well as the social determinants that make poor women more likely to forgo maternal health care.