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Assessing levels and trends of child health inequality in 88 developing countries: from 2000 to 2014
Authors: Li Z, Li M, Subramanian SV, and Lu C
Source: Global Health Action, 10(1):1408385; DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2017.1408385
Topic(s): Child health
Childhood mortality
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: DEC 2017
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Reducing child mortality was one of the Millennium Development Goals. In the current Sustainable Development Goals era, achieving equity is prioritized as a major aim. OBJECTIVE: This study aims to provide a comprehensive and updated picture of inequalities in child health intervention coverage and child health outcomes by wealth status, as well as their trends between 2000 and 2014. METHODS: Using data from Demographic Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, we adopted three measures of inequality, including one absolute inequality indicator and two relative inequality indicators, to estimate the level and trends of inequalities in three child health outcome variables and 17 intervention coverages in 88 developing countries. RESULTS: While improvements in child health outcomes and coverage of interventions have been observed between 2000 and 2014, large inequalities remain. There was a high level of variation between countries' progress toward reducing child health inequalities, with some countries significantly improving, some deteriorating, and some remaining statistically unchanged. Among child health interventions, the least equitable one was access to improved sanitation (The absolute difference in coverages between the richest quintile and the poorest quintile reached 49.5% [42.7, 56.2]), followed by access to improved water (34.1% [29.5, 38.6]), and skilled birth attendant (SBA) (34.1% [28.8, 39.4]). The most equitable intervention coverage was insecticide-treated bed net for children (1.0% [-3.9, 5.9]), followed by oral rehydration therapy for diarrhea ((8.0% [5.2, 10.8]), and vitamin A supplement (8.4% [5.1, 11.7]). These findings were robust to various inequality measurements. CONCLUSIONS: Although child health outcomes and coverage of interventions have improved largely over the study period for almost all wealth quintiles, insufficient progress was made in reducing child health inequalities between the poorest and richest wealth quintiles. Future efforts should focus on reaching the poorest children by increasing investments toward expanding the coverage of interventions in resource-limited settings. KEYWORDS: Child health interventions; child health outcomes; child mortality; developing countries; inequality