Disparities in child health in the Arab region during the 1990s

Int J Equity Health. 2008 Nov 20;7:24. doi: 10.1186/1475-9276-7-24.


Background: While Arab countries showed an impressive decline in child mortality rates during the past few decades, gaps in mortality by gender and socioeconomic status persisted. However, large socioeconomic disparities in child health were evident in almost every country in the region.

Methods: Using available tabulations and reliable micro data from national household surveys, data for 18 Arab countries were available for analysis. In addition to infant and child mortality, child health was measured by nutritional status, vaccination, and Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI). Within-country disparities in child health by gender, residence (urban/rural) and maternal educational level were described. Child health was also analyzed by macro measures of development, including per capita GDP (PPP), female literacy rates, urban population and doctors per 100,000 people.

Results: Gender disparities in child health using the above indicators were less evident, with most showing clear female advantage. With the exception of infant and child survival, gender disparities demonstrated a female advantage, as well as a large urban advantage and an overall advantage for mothers with secondary education. Surprisingly, the countries' rankings with respect to disparities were not associated with various macro measures of development.

Conclusion: The tenacity of pervasive intra-country socioeconomic disparities in child health calls for attention by policy makers and health practitioners.