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Barriers to Formal Emergency Obstetric Care Services’ Utilization

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      Abstract

      Access to appropriate health care including skilled birth attendance at delivery and timely referrals to emergency obstetric care services can greatly reduce maternal deaths and disabilities, yet women in sub-Saharan Africa continue to face limited access to skilled delivery services. This study relies on qualitative data collected from residents of two slums in Nairobi, Kenya in 2006 to investigate views surrounding barriers to the uptake of formal obstetric services. Data indicate that slum dwellers prefer formal to informal obstetric services. However, their efforts to utilize formal emergency obstetric care services are constrained by various factors including ineffective health decision making at the family level, inadequate transport facilities to formal care facilities and insecurity at night, high cost of health services, and inhospitable formal service providers and poorly equipped health facilities in the slums. As a result, a majority of slum dwellers opt for delivery services offered by traditional birth attendants (TBAs) who lack essential skills and equipment, thereby increasing the risk of death and disability. Based on these findings, we maintain that urban poor women face barriers to access of formal obstetric services at family, community, and health facility levels, and efforts to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality among the urban poor must tackle the barriers, which operate at these different levels to hinder women's access to formal obstetric care services. We recommend continuous community education on symptoms of complications related to pregnancy and timely referral. A focus on training of health personnel on “public relations” could also restore confidence in the health-care system with this populace. Further, we recommend improving the health facilities in the slums, improving the services provided by TBAs through capacity building as well as involving TBAs in referral processes to make access to services timely. Measures can also be put in place to enhance security in the slums at night.

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      Most cited references 26

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      Strategies for reducing maternal mortality: getting on with what works.

      The concept of knowing what works in terms of reducing maternal mortality is complicated by a huge diversity of country contexts and of determinants of maternal health. Here we aim to show that, despite this complexity, only a few strategic choices need to be made to reduce maternal mortality. We begin by presenting the logic that informs our strategic choices. This logic suggests that implementation of an effective intrapartum-care strategy is an overwhelming priority. We also discuss the alternative configurations of such a strategy and, using the best available evidence, prioritise one strategy based on delivery in primary-level institutions (health centres), backed up by access to referral-level facilities. We then go on to discuss strategies that complement intrapartum care. We conclude by discussing the inexplicable hesitation in decision-making after nearly 20 years of safe motherhood programming: if the fifth Millennium Development Goal is to be achieved, then what needs to be prioritised is obvious. Further delays in getting on with what works begs questions about the commitment of decision-makers to this goal.
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        Maternal mortality: who, when, where, and why.

        The risk of a woman dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth during her lifetime is about one in six in the poorest parts of the world compared with about one in 30 000 in Northern Europe. Such a discrepancy poses a huge challenge to meeting the fifth Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality by 75% between 1990 and 2015. Some developed and transitional countries have managed to reduce their maternal mortality during the past 25 years. Few of these, however, began with the very high rates that are now estimated for the poorest countries-in which further progress is jeopardised by weak health systems, continuing high fertility, and poor availability of data. Maternal deaths are clustered around labour, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period, with obstetric haemorrhage being the main medical cause of death. Local variation can be important, with unsafe abortion carrying huge risk in some populations, and HIV/AIDS becoming a leading cause of death where HIV-related mortaliy rates are high. Inequalities in the risk of maternal death exist everywhere. Targeting of interventions to the most vulnerable--rural populations and poor people--is essential if substantial progress is to be achieved by 2015.
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          Too far to walk: maternal mortality in context.

           S Thaddeus,  D Maine (1994)
          The Prevention of Maternal Mortality Program is a collaborative effort of Columbia University's Center for Population and Family Health and multidisciplinary teams of researchers from Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Program goals include dissemination of information to those concerned with preventing maternal deaths. This review, which presents findings from a broad body of research, is part of that activity. While there are numerous factors that contribute to maternal mortality, we focus on those that affect the interval between the onset of obstetric complication and its outcome. If prompt, adequate treatment is provided, the outcome will usually be satisfactory; therefore, the outcome is most adversely affected by delayed treatment. We examine research on the factors that: (1) delay the decision to seek care; (2) delay arrival at a health facility; and (3) delay the provision of adequate care. The literature clearly indicates that while distance and cost are major obstacles in the decision to seek care, the relationships are not simple. There is evidence that people often consider the quality of care more important than cost. These three factors--distance, cost and quality--alone do not give a full understanding of decision-making process. Their salience as obstacles is ultimately defined by illness-related factors, such as severity. Differential use of health services is also shaped by such variables as gender and socioeconomic status. Patients who make a timely decision to seek care can still experience delay, because the accessibility of health services is an acute problem in the developing world. In rural areas, a woman with an obstetric emergency may find the closest facility equipped only for basic treatments and education, and she may have no way to reach a regional center where resources exist. Finally, arriving at the facility may not lead to the immediate commencement of treatment. Shortages of qualified staff, essential drugs and supplies, coupled with administrative delays and clinical mismanagement, become documentable contributors to maternal deaths. Findings from the literature review are discussed in light of their implications for programs. Options for health programs are offered and examples of efforts to reduce maternal deaths are presented, with an emphasis on strategies to mobilize and adapt existing resources.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Centre for Global Health, Population, Poverty and Policy (GHP3). Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
            [2 ]World Bank, Washington, DC, USA
            [3 ]African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), Nairobi, Kenya
            Contributors
            +44-23-80594748 , H.Essendi@soton.ac.uk
            Journal
            J Urban Health
            Journal of Urban Health : Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine
            Springer US (Boston )
            1099-3460
            1468-2869
            11 August 2010
            11 August 2010
            June 2011
            : 88
            : Suppl 2
            : 356-369
            3132235
            20700769
            9481
            10.1007/s11524-010-9481-1
            © The New York Academy of Medicine 2010
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            © The New York Academy of Medicine 2011

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