Ndaimani, Augustine, Maxwell Mhlanga, and Virgininia Dube-Mawerewere. 2018. The Association between Women’s Empowerment and Uptake of Child Health Services: A Demographic and Health Survey- Based Synthesis. DHS Working Paper No. 139. Rockville, Maryland, USA: ICF.
Globally 1.5 million children die from illnesses that could be prevented through vaccination. Since 2010 there has been stagnation in global coverage of child vaccination, despite many public health efforts. Women, who are caregivers for sick children in most societies, may not have the capacity to make decisions such as seeking health care. This study examines the association between mother’s empowerment and uptake of child vaccination and diarrhea treatment, through a secondary analysis of data from the 2016 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey.
The results show that only 22% of mothers had high levels of decision-making, while 12% had full ownership of assets. For uptake of child health services, 76% of children age 12-23 months received basic vaccinations, and 42% of children under age 5 were treated for diarrhea. The unadjusted analysis showed a significant association between mother’s empowerment and child vaccination. However, no statistically significant association was found between mother’s empowerment and child health outcomes, after controlling for other socio-demographic factors.
The regression analysis showed some statistically significant predictors of child health outcomes, however. Predictors that favored completion of basic vaccines included: being in the middle wealth quintile compared with the poorest wealth quintile; having visited a health facility in the past 12 months; and having health insurance. Mothers who visited a health facility in the past 12 months had 50% higher odds of receiving treatment for diarrhea for their children under age 5 compared with mothers who did not visit a facility. Internet use by the mother also favored receiving treatment for children’s diarrhea.
Universal health insurance may improve child health outcomes. Advising mothers on websites to access child health messages, particularly where the household heads are 15-24 years old may improve uptake of health messages.