Background: After election in 1994, the South African government implemented national and regional programmes, such as the Wild Coast Spatial Development Initiative (SDI), to provoke economic growth and to decrease inequities. CIET measured development in the Wild Coast region across four linked cross-sectional surveys (1997-2007). The 2007 survey was an opportunity to look at inequities since the original 1997 baseline, and how such inequities affect access to health care.
Methods: The 2000, 2004 and 2007 follow-up surveys revisited the communities of the 1997 baseline. Household-level multivariate analysis looked at development indicators and access to health in the context of inequities such as household crowding, access to protected sources of water, house roof construction, main food item purchased, and perception of community empowerment. Individual multivariate models accounted for age, sex, education and income earning opportunities.
Results: Overall access to protected sources of water increased since the baseline (from 20% in 1997 to 50% in 2007), yet households made of mud and grass, and households who bought basics as their main food item were still less likely to have protected sources of water. The most vulnerable, such as those with less education and less water and food security, were also less likely to have worked for wages leaving them with little chance of improving their standard of living (less education OR 0.59, 95%CI 0.37-0.94; less water security OR 0.67, 95%CI 0.48-0.93; less food security OR 0.43, 95%CI 0.29-0.64). People with less income were more likely to visit government services (among men OR 0.28, 95%CI 0.13-0.59; among women OR 0.33, 95%CI 0.20-0.54), reporting decision factors of cost and distance; users of private clinics sought out better service and medication. Lower food security and poorer house construction was also associated with women visiting government rather than private health services. Women with some formal education were nearly eight times more likely than women with no education to access health services for prevention rather than curative reasons (OR 7.65, 95%CI 4.10-14.25).
Conclusion: While there have been some improvements, the Wild Coast region still falls well below provincial and national standards in key areas such as access to clean water and employment despite years of government-led investment. Inequities remain prominent, particularly around access to health services.