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      Measuring Coverage in MNCH: Determining and Interpreting Inequalities in Coverage of Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Interventions

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      PLoS Medicine
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          Abstract

          In a PLOS Medicine Review, Aluísio Barros and Cesar Victora provide a practical guide to measuring and interpreting inequalities in the coverage of maternal, newborn, and child interventions in low- and middle-income countries using data collected by large household surveys.

          Abstract

          To monitor progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, it is essential to monitor the coverage of health interventions in subgroups of the population, because national averages can hide important inequalities. In this review, we provide a practical guide to measuring and interpreting inequalities based on surveys carried out in low- and middle-income countries, with a focus on the health of mothers and children. Relevant stratification variables include urban/rural residence, geographic region, and educational level, but breakdowns by wealth status are increasingly popular. For the latter, a classification based on an asset index is the most appropriate for national surveys. The measurement of intervention coverage can be made by single indicators, but the use of combined measures has important advantages, and we advocate two summary measures (the composite coverage index and the co-coverage indicator) for the study of time trends and for cross-country comparisons. We highlight the need for inequality measures that take the whole socioeconomic distribution into account, such as the relative concentration index and the slope index of inequality, although simpler measures such as the ratio and difference between the richest and poorest groups may also be presented for non-technical audiences. Finally, we present a framework for the analysis of time trends in inequalities, arguing that it is essential to study both absolute and relative indicators, and we provide guidance to the joint interpretation of these results.

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          Most cited references16

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          The concepts and principles of equity and health.

          In 1984, the 32 member states of the World Health Organization European Region took a remarkable step forward in agreeing unanimously on 38 targets for a common health policy for the Region. Not only was equity the subject of the first of these targets, but it was also seen as a fundamental theme running right through the policy as a whole. However, equity can mean different things to different people. This article looks at the concepts and principles of equity as understood in the context of the World Health Organization's Health for All policy. After considering the possible causes of the differences in health observed in populations--some of them inevitable and some unnecessary and unfair--the author discusses equity in relation to health care, concentrating on issues of access to care, utilization, and quality. Lastly, seven principles for action are outlined, stemming from these concepts, to be borne in mind when designing or implementing policies, so that greater equity in health and health care can be promoted.
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            On the measurement of inequalities in health.

            This paper offers a critical appraisal of the various methods employed to date to measure inequalities in health. It suggests that only two of these--the slope index of inequality and the concentration index--are likely to present an accurate picture of socioeconomic inequalities in health. The paper also presents several empirical examples to illustrate of the dangers of using other measures such as the range, the Lorenz curve and the index of dissimilarity.
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              Measuring the magnitude of socio-economic inequalities in health: an overview of available measures illustrated with two examples from Europe.

              In this paper we review the available summary measures for the magnitude of socio-economic inequalities in health. Measures which have been used differ in a number of important respects, including (1) the measurement of "relative" or "absolute" differences; (2) the measurement of an "effect" of lower socio-economic status, or of the "total impact" of socio-economic inequalities in health upon the health status of the population; (3) simple versus sophisticated measurement techniques. Based on this analysis of summary measures which have previously been applied, eight different classes of summary measures can be distinguished. Because measures of "total impact" can be further subdivided on the basis of their underlying assumptions, we finally arrive at 12 types of summary measure. Each of these has its merits, and choice of a particular type of summary measure will depend partly on technical considerations, partly on one's perspective on socio-economic inequalities in health. In practice, it will often be useful to compare the results of several summary measures. These principles are illustrated with two examples: one on trends in the magnitude of inequalities in mortality by occupational class in Finland, and one on trends in the magnitude of inequalities in self-reported morbidity by level of education in the Netherlands.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Academic Editor
                Journal
                PLoS Med
                PLoS Med
                PLoS
                plosmed
                PLoS Medicine
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1549-1277
                1549-1676
                May 2013
                May 2013
                7 May 2013
                : 10
                : 5
                : e1001390
                Affiliations
                [1]Postgraduate Program in Epidemiology, Federal University of Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil
                Professor of Demography and Social Statistics, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
                Author notes

                The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Analyzed the data: AJB CGV. Wrote the first draft of the manuscript: AJB CGV. Contributed to the writing of the manuscript: AJB CGV. ICMJE criteria for authorship read and met: AJB CGV. Agree with manuscript results and conclusions: AJB CGV.

                Article
                PMEDICINE-D-12-01912
                10.1371/journal.pmed.1001390
                3646214
                23667332
                3bea2528-4402-4919-83e8-3a15aab11e59
                Copyright @ 2013

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                History
                Page count
                Pages: 9
                Funding
                This work was conducted under the auspices of the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) for WHO and UNICEF, with financial support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through their grant to the US Fund for UNICEF. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript
                Categories
                Review
                Medicine
                Epidemiology
                Social Epidemiology
                Global Health

                Medicine
                Medicine

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