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Is socioeconomic inequality in antenatal care coverage widening or reducing between- and within-socioeconomic groups? A case of 19 countries in sub-Saharan Africa
Authors: John E. Ataguba, Chijioke O. Nwosu & Amarech G. Obse
Source: SSM: Population Health, 23
Topic(s): Antenatal care
Health equity
Maternal health
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
  Sierra Leone
Published: MAY 2023
Abstract: Maternal health statistics have improved in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Still, progress remains slow in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets. Accelerating antenatal care (ANC) coverage is critical to improving maternal health outcomes. To progress, countries should understand whether to target reducing health disparities between- or within-socioeconomic groups, as policies for achieving these may differ. This paper develops a framework for decomposing changes in socioeconomic inequalities in health into changes in between- and within-socioeconomic groups using the concentration index, a popular measure for assessing socioeconomic inequalities in health. It begins by noting the challenge in decomposing the concentration index into only between- and within-group components due to the possibility of an overlap created by overlapping distributions of socioeconomic status between groups. Using quantiles of socioeconomic status provides a convenient way to decompose the concentration index so that the overlap component disappears. In characterising the decomposition, a pro-poor shift occurs when socioeconomic inequality is reduced over time, including between- and within-socioeconomic groups, while a pro-rich shift or change occurs conversely. The framework is applied to data from two rounds of the Demographic and Health Survey of 19 countries in SSA conducted about ten years apart in each country. It assessed changes in socioeconomic inequalities in an indicator of at least four antenatal care visits (ANC4+) and the count of ANC visits (ANC intensity). The results show that many countries in SSA witnessed significant pro-poor shifts or reductions in socioeconomic inequalities in ANC coverage because pro-rich inequalities in ANC4+ and ANC intensity become less pro-rich. Changes in between-socioeconomic group inequalities drive the changes in ANC service coverage inequalities in all countries. Thus, policies addressing inequalities between-socioeconomic groups are vital to reducing overall disparities and closing the gap between the rich and the poor, a crucial objective for the SDGs.