Back to browse results
Time trends in ethnic inequalities in child health and nutrition: analysis of 59 low and middle-income countries
Authors: Luis Paulo Vidaletti, Bianca O. Cata-Preta, David E. Phillips, Sonya Shekhar, Aluísio J.D. Barros and Cesar G. Victora
Source: International Journal for Equity in Health, 22
Topic(s): Child feeding
Child health
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
  Multiple Asian Countries
Latin American/Caribbean
  Multiple L.A./Caribbean Countries
More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: APR 2023
Abstract: Background: Although ethnicity is a key social determinant of health, there are no global analyses aimed at identifying countries that succeeded in reducing ethnic gaps in child health and nutrition. Methods: We identified 59 low and middle-income countries with at least two surveys since 2010 providing information on ethnicity or language and on three outcomes: under-five mortality, child stunting prevalence and a composite index (CCI) based on coverage with eight maternal and child health interventions. Firstly, we calculated population-weighted and unweighted measures of inequality among ethnic or language groups within each country. These included the mean difference from the overall national mean (absolute inequality), mean ratio relative to the overall mean (relative inequality), and the difference and ratio between the best- and worst-performing ethnic groups. Second, we examined annual changes in these measures in terms of annual absolute and relative changes. Thirdly, we compared trends for each of the three outcome indicators and identified exemplar countries with marked progress in reducing inequalities. Results: For each outcome indicator, annual changes in summary measures tended to show moderate (Pearson correlation coefficients of 0.4 to 0.69) or strong correlations (0.7 or higher) among themselves, and we thus focused on four of the 12 measures: absolute and relative annual changes in mean differences and ratios from the overall national mean. On average, absolute ethnic or language group inequalities tended to decline slightly for the three outcomes, and relative inequality declined for stunting and CCI, but increased for mortality. Correlations for annual trends across the three outcomes were inconsistent, with several countries showing progress in terms of one outcome but not in others. Togo and Uganda showed with the most consistent progress in reducing inequality, whereas the worst performers were Nigeria, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Sao Tome and Principe, and Burkina Faso. Conclusions: Although measures of annual changes in ethnic or language group inequalities in child health were consistently correlated within each outcome, analyses of such inequalities should rely upon multiple measures. Countries showing progress in one child health outcome did not necessarily show improvements in the remaining outcomes. In-depth analyses at country level are needed to understand the drivers of success in reducing ethnic gaps.