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Pro-poor policies and improvements in maternal health outcomes in India

Bhatia, M., Dwivedi, L. K., Banerjee, K., Bansal, A., Ranjan, M. and Dixit, P. (2021) Pro-poor policies and improvements in maternal health outcomes in India. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 21 (1). ISSN 1471-2393

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Identification Number: 10.1186/s12884-021-03839-w


BACKGROUND: Since 2005, India has experienced an impressive 77% reduction in maternal mortality compared to the global average of 43%. What explains this impressive performance in terms of reduction in maternal mortality and improvement in maternal health outcomes? This paper evaluates the effect of household wealth status on maternal mortality in India, and also separates out the performance of the Empowered Action Group (EAG) states and the Southern states of India. The results are discussed in the light of various pro-poor programmes and policies designed to reduce maternal mortality and the existing supply side gaps in the healthcare system of India. Using multiple sources of data, this study aims to understand the trends in maternal mortality (1997-2017) between EAG and non EAG states in India and explore various household, economic and policy factors that may explain reduction in maternal mortality and improvement in maternal health outcomes in India. METHODS: This study triangulates data from different rounds of Sample Registration Systems to assess the trend in maternal mortality in India. It further analysed the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS). NFHS-4, 2015-16 has gathered information on maternal mortality and pregnancy-related deaths from 601,509 households. Using logistic regression, we estimate the association of various socio-economic variables on maternal deaths in the various states of India. RESULTS: On an average, wealth status of the households did not have a statistically significant association with maternal mortality in India. However, our disaggregate analysis reveals, the gains in terms of maternal mortality have been unevenly distributed. Although the rich-poor gap in maternal mortality has reduced in EAG states such as Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Rajasthan, the maternal mortality has remained above the national average for many of these states. The EAG states also experience supply side shortfalls in terms of availability of PHC and PHC doctors; and availability of specialist doctors. CONCLUSIONS: The novel contribution of the present paper is that the association of household wealth status and place of residence with maternal mortality is statistically not significant implying financial barriers to access maternal health services have been minimised. This result, and India's impressive performance with respect to maternal health outcomes, can be attributed to the various pro-poor policies and cash incentive schemes successfully launched in recent years. Community-level involvement with pivotal role played by community health workers has been one of the major reasons for the success of many ongoing policies. Policy makers need to prioritise the underperforming states and socio-economic groups within the states by addressing both demand-side and supply-side measures simultaneously mediated by contextual factors.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Health Policy
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Date Deposited: 20 May 2021 10:21
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 03:21

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