Equity in access to maternal and child health services in five developing countries: What works

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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People living in rural areas are yet to have equitable access to maternal and child health services in many developing countries. This article examines selected health service delivery models that improved access to services in five developing countries. The article is based on the review of background papers on Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, Ghana, and Tanzania, prepared as part of a multi-country study on health systems and maternal and child health. Findings suggest that equity in access to health services largely depends on a system that ensures a combination of facility-based service delivery and outreach services with a functioning referral network. A key factor is the availability of health workforce at the community level. Community-based deployment of service providers or recruitment and training of community health workers is critical in enhancing service coverage and linking local populations to a health facility. Incentive is necessary to keep community health workers’ interest in providing services. However, health workforce alone cannot ensure good health outcomes. They must be embedded in a functioning service delivery network to transform structural inputs into outcomes. Moreover, local-level health systems should have the ability to allocate resources in strategic ways addressing the pressing health needs of the people.