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Do free caesarean section policies increase inequalities in Benin and Mali?

  • Ravit, Marion
  • Audibert, Martine
  • Ridde, Valery
  • De Loenzien, Myriam
  • Schantz, Clémence
  • Dumont, Alexandre
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2018
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Background: Benin and Mali introduced user fee exemption policies focused on caesarean sections (C-sections) in2005 and 2009, respectively. These policies had a positive impact on access to C-sections and facility based deliveriesamong all women, but the impact on socioeconomic inequality is still highly uncertain. The objective of this study wasto observe whether there was an increase or a decrease in urban/rural and socioeconomic inequalities in access toC-sections and facility based deliveries after the free C-section policy was introduced.Methods: We used data from three consecutive Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS): 2001, 2006 and 2011–2012 inBenin and 2001, 2006 and 2012–13 in Mali. We evaluated trends in inequality in terms of two outcomes: C-sections andfacility based deliveries. Adjusted odds ratios were used to estimate whether the distributions of C-sections and facilitybased deliveries favoured the least advantaged categories (rural, non-educated and poorest women) or the mostadvantaged categories (urban, educated and richest women). Concentration curves were used to observe the degreeof wealth-related inequality in access to C-sections and facility based deliveries.Results: We analysed 47,302 childbirths (23,266 in Benin and 24,036 in Mali). In Benin, we found no significantdifference in access to C-sections between urban and rural women or between educated and non-educated women.However, the richest women had greater access to C-sections than the poorest women. There was no significantchange in these inequalities in terms of access to C-sections and facility based deliveries after introduction of the freeC-section policy.In Mali, we found a reduction in education-related inequalities in access to C-sections after implementation of thepolicy (p-value = 0.043). Inequalities between urban and rural areas had already decreased prior to implementation ofthe policy, but wealth-related inequalities were still present.Conclusions: Urban/rural and socioeconomic inequalities in C-section access did not change substantially after thecountries implemented free C-section policies. User fee exemption is not enough. We recommend switching tomechanisms that combine both a universal approach and targeted action for vulnerable populations to address thisissue and ensure equal health care access for all individuals.

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