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Urban Health Disparities in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia: Trends in Maternal and Child Health Care Access, Utilization and Outcomes among Urban Slum Residents Open Access

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Background: As the world becomes more urban and slums continue to grow in developing countries, research is needed to measure utilization of health services, health outcomes, and access to health care providers among urban slum residents. Estimating trends in urban health among slum residents relative to other urban inhabitants provides evidence of health disparities for priority-setting by program implementers and policy-makers. Research on the negative effects of slum environments on human health has started to emerge, yet there remains a paucity of evidence on morbidity trends over time and inequalities between slum residents and other urban residents. The goal of this study is to quantify maternal and child health care access, utilization and outcomes among urban slum dwellers in selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia over time. These three areas are addressed in three separate dissertation manuscripts. Methods: This dissertation offers an in-depth analysis of household and health facility data to measure trends in maternal and child health care utilization and health outcomes among slum residents over time, as well as inequalities in access, utilization and outcomes between other urban and rural populations. Manuscripts 1 and 2 apply a unique spatial inequality approach to existing population-based household data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) to identify a sample of slum residents. Manuscript 1 assesses trends in maternal and child health care (MCH) utilization and health outcomes using DHS data in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria and Tanzania between 2003 and 2011. In Manuscript 2, a trend analysis is performed in Kenya to examine diarrheal disease and acute respiratory infection (ARI) in children under-five in both slums and other urban and rural areas during the roll-out of a national slum upgrading program. Manuscript 3 further explores local-level dimensions of health care access from two slums in Kenya, generating evidence on service availability and readiness in slums. In this section, we analyze health facility data collected using a modified version of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Service Availability and Readiness Assessment (SARA). Results: Manuscript 1 reports significant disparities between slum dwellers and other urban residents’ utilization of key maternal health interventions—appropriate antenatal care (ANC), tetanus toxoid vaccination, and skilled delivery—in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria. In addition, child health outcomes examined in Manuscript 1 suggest that the prevalence of diarrheal disease in children under-five is declining among other urban and rural residents, but not significantly among slum residents. Nigeria was the only exception, with significant declines in diarrheal disease prevalence in slums over the study period. Because ARI improvements are found across populations, the data suggests this condition is not unique to slum settings. The trend analysis in Manuscript 2 supports these findings—ARI is declining steadily over time not only among slum residents, but also among other urban and rural residents as well. Diarrheal disease prevalence, on the other hand, has not changed significantly over time, with stable levels among slum dwellers between 1993 and 2014. In Manuscript 3, analysis of general service availability and readiness in two locations—the Nyalenda slum of Kisumu and the Langas slum of Eldoret—reveals that slums perform far below recommended benchmarks set by WHO. When we compare service availability and readiness indicators with regional, urban, and national averages, in general slums in Kisumu and Eldoret perform poorly. However, there were some instances—typically involving standard precautions for infection control—where Kenyan slums actually performed better than comparison sites.Conclusions: This research provides a comprehensive view of health systems dimensions in urban slums in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Manuscript 1 confirms evidence of an urban penalty and emphasizes a need to focus on maternal health care utilization in slums. Manuscript 2 detects little improvement in child health outcomes among slum dwellers in Kenya during the roll-out of the country’s national slum upgrading program. An integrated approach to health and urban policy development is recommended based on these results. Manuscript 3 identifies areas of service availability and readiness in two Kenyan slums that fall below global targets and are in need of improvement in order to achieve desired health outcomes. Taken together, this study makes a significant contribution to the crucial demand for research on growing marginalized urban populations in developing countries.

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