Background: Poor maternal and infant health indicators are mostly concentrated among low income households in Pakistan and health care expenditures - especially on medical emergencies - are the most common income shocks experienced by the poor. Public investments in health are therefore considered as pro-poor interventions by the government of Pakistan. This study employs nationally representative household data for Pakistan for 2007-08 and 2010-11 to investigate whether benefits from publicly financed services on Mother and Newborn Child Health (MNCH) are effectively captured by the poor in terms of service utilization.
Methods: The study conducts a Utilization Incidence Analysis of the use of public health services for MNCH in Pakistan. For this purpose, the utilization shares of households, ranked by economic status, are computed. The concentration curves are plotted and their dominance is tested against an equal distribution and Lorenz curves to determine whether the distribution is pro-poor and progressive.
Results: Although the shares of bottom income groups in the utilization of most services for MNCH have increased between 2007 and 2011, the utilization of some services such as post-natal consultation; institutional maternal delivery; and Tetanus Toxoid injections for pregnant women remains pro-rich in 2011. The utilization of pre-natal consultation, especially through lady health workers and visitors; the use of Family Panning Units; and immunization services is somewhat evenly distributed. The use of Basic Health Units (BHUs) is found to be pro-poor. The provincial analysis reveals that the province of Baluchistan depicts an unusually high level of inequity in the distribution of utilization benefits from almost all public health services. Finally, in terms of progressivity, public spending on all health services analyzed in the study is found to be progressive at the national level implying that investment in MNCH has the potential to redistribute income from rich to the poor.
Conclusion: To target the poor effectively, the study recommends expanding the network of BHUs as well as basic reproductive and child health care services. The outreach of health facilities in Baluchistan need to be expanded while targeting the poor effectively by mitigating various access costs that prevent them from using public health services.
Keywords: Mother and newborn child health; Pakistan; Public health spending; Utilization Incidence Analysis.