Background: The deadline for achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 is approaching, but inequalities between disadvantaged and other populations is a significant barrier for progress towards achieving these goals. This systematic review aims to collect evidence about the differential effects of interventions on different sociodemographic groups in order to identify interventions that were effective in reducing maternal or child health inequalities.
Methods: We searched the PubMed, EMBASE and other relevant databases. The reference lists of included reviews were also screened to find more eligible studies. We included experimental or observational studies that assessed the effects of interventions on maternal and child health, but only studies that report quantitative inequality outcomes were finally included for analysis.
Results: 22 articles about the effectiveness of interventions on equity in maternal and child health were finally included. These studies covered five kinds of interventions: immunization campaigns, nutrition supplement programs, health care provision improvement interventions, demand side interventions, and mixed interventions. The outcome indicators covered all MDG 4 and three MDG 5 outcomes. None of the included studies looked at equity in maternal mortality, adolescent birth rate and unmet need for family planning. The included studies reported inequalities based on gender, income, education level or comprehensive socioeconomic status. Stronger or moderate evidence showed that all kinds of the included interventions may be more effective in improving maternal or child health for those from disadvantaged groups.
Conclusion: Studies about the effectiveness of interventions on equity in maternal or child health are limited. The limited evidence showed that the interventions that were effective in reducing inequity included the improvement of health care delivery by outreach methods, using human resources in local areas or provided at the community level nearest to residents and the provision of financial or knowledge support to demand side.