While the importance of antenatal care for maternal and child health continues to be debated, several researchers have documented its impact on intermediate variables affecting survival such as birth weight. These studies have also highlighted the problems of causality that are typically not taken into account when estimating the effects of antenatal care on skilled birth attendance. In this study, we revisit this relation in the rural areas of four countries: Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Using a structural equation modeling approach that corrects for endogeneity, in all four countries we find that the usual simpler probit (or logit) models tend to underestimate the direct effect of antenatal care on skilled birth attendance. Furthermore, in two of the countries, this estimated effect is mediated by the range of services offered to women during antenatal care. These results suggest that governments and NGOs should place more importance on the role of antenatal care providers and on the services they offer, in efforts to promote skilled birth attendance.
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