Challenges to the reproductive-health needs of African women: on religion and maternal health utilization in Ghana

Soc Sci Med. 2006 Jun;62(12):2930-44. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.11.034. Epub 2006 Jan 6.


How relevant is religion to our understanding of maternal health (MH) service utilization in sub-Saharan Africa? We ask this question mainly because while the effect of religion on some aspects of reproductive behavior (e.g., fertility, contraception) has not gone unnoticed in the region, very few studies have examined the possible link with MH service utilization. Understanding this link in the context of sub-Saharan Africa is particularly relevant given the overriding influence of religion on the social fabric of Africans and the unacceptably high levels of maternal mortality in the region. As African countries struggle to achieve their stipulated reductions in maternal and child mortality levels by two-thirds by 2015 as part of the Millennium Development Goals, the need to examine the complex set of macro- and micro-factors that affect maternal and child health in the region cannot be underestimated. Using data from the 2003 Ghana Demographic Survey, we found religion (measured by denominational affiliation) to be a significant factor in MH use. This is true even after we had controlled for socio-economic variables. In general, Moslem and traditional women were less likely to use such services compared with Christians. The findings are discussed with reference to our theoretical framework and some policy issues are highlighted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Christianity
  • Delivery Rooms / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Ghana / epidemiology
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Islam
  • Logistic Models
  • Maternal Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Maternal-Child Health Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prenatal Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data