Comprehensive review of the evidence regarding the effectiveness of community-based primary health care in improving maternal, neonatal and child health: 5. equity effects for neonates and children

J Glob Health. 2017 Jun;7(1):010905. doi: 10.7189/jogh.07.010905.


Background: The degree to which investments in health programs improve the health of the most disadvantaged segments of the population-where utilization of health services and health status is often the worst-is a growing concern throughout the world. Therefore, questions about the degree to which community-based primary health care (CBPHC) can or actually does improve utilization of health services and the health status of the most disadvantaged children in a population is an important one.

Methods: Using a database containing information about the assessment of 548 interventions, projects or programs (referred to collectively as projects) that used CBPHC to improve child health, we extracted evidence related to equity from a sub-set of 42 projects, identified through a multi-step process, that included an equity analysis. We organized our findings conceptually around a logical framework matrix.

Results: Our analysis indicates that these CBPHC projects, all of which implemented child health interventions, achieved equitable effects. The vast majority (87%) of the 82 equity measurements carried out and reported for these 42 projects demonstrated "pro-equitable" or "equitable" effects, meaning that the project's equity indicator(s) improved to the same degree or more in the disadvantaged segments of the project population as in the more advantaged segments. Most (78%) of the all the measured equity effects were "pro-equitable," meaning that the equity criterion improved more in the most disadvantaged segment of the project population than in the other segments of the population.

Conclusions: Based on the observation that CBPHC projects commonly provide services that are readily accessible to the entire project population and that even often reach down to all households, such projects are inherently likely to be more equitable than projects that strengthen services only at facilities, where utilization diminishes greatly with one's distance away. The decentralization of services and attention to and tracking of metrics across all phases of project implementation with attention to the underserved, as can be done in CBPHC projects, are important for reducing inequities in countries with a high burden of child mortality. Strengthening CBPHC is a necessary strategy for reducing inequities in child health and for achieving universal coverage of essential services for children.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Health Services*
  • Developing Countries
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Program Evaluation