Is religion the forgotten variable in maternal and child health? Evidence from Zimbabwe

Soc Sci Med. 2014 Oct:118:80-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.07.066. Epub 2014 Jul 31.


The Apostolic faith, a rapidly growing and increasingly influential force in Zimbabwe, has received attention in the literature due to its potential role in shaping its followers' attitudes and behaviours towards health. Existing literature, however, has only examined small cross-section samples from a few confined survey sites or has failed to adequately control for the many factors that may mediate the effects of religion. This paper examines the effects of the Apostolic faith on the usage of maternal health and child immunization services in Zimbabwe. It is based on a nationally representative sample from the 2009 Multi-Indicator Monitoring Survey and employs the established Andersen model on access to health services. Well controlled multivariate logit regression models derived from these data show that an affiliation with the Apostolic faith is a substantial and significant risk factor in reducing the utilization of both maternal and child health services. Moreover, even when the services were least costly and readily available and when gaps along other social and economic factors were limited, as in the case of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination and one visit to antenatal care, women and children from Apostolic faith families still fared significantly worse than others in accessing them.

Keywords: African Independent Church; Apostolic religion; Maternal and child health; Zimbabwe.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prenatal Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Religion*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult
  • Zimbabwe