Social inequalities in access to care at birth and neonatal mortality: an observational study

Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2022 Jul;107(4):380-385. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2021-321967. Epub 2021 Oct 16.


Objective: To look at the association of socioeconomic status (SES) with the suitability of the maternity where children are born and its association with mortality.

Design: Retrospective analysis of a prospective cohort constituted using hospital discharge databases.

Setting: France POPULATION: Live births in 2012-2014 in maternity hospitals in mainland France followed until discharge from the hospital.

Main outcome measure: Unsuitability of the maternity to newborns' needs based on birth weight and gestational age, early transfers (within 24 hours of birth) and in-hospital mortality.

Results: 2 149 454 births were included, among which 155 646 (7.2%) were preterm. Preterm newborns with low SES were less frequently born in level III maternities than those with high SES. They had higher odds of being born in an unsuitable maternity (OR=1.174, 95% CI 1.114 to 1.238 in the lowest SES quintile compared with the highest), and no increase in the odds of an early transfer (OR=0.966, 95% CI 0.849 to 1.099 in the lowest SES quintile compared with the highest). Overall, newborns from the lowest SES quintile had a 40% increase in their odds of dying compared with the highest (OR=1.399, 95% CI 1.235 to 1.584).

Conclusions: Newborns with the lowest SES were less likely to be born in level III maternity hospitals compared with those with the highest SES, despite having higher prematurity rates. This was associated with a significantly higher mortality in newborns with the lowest SES. Strategies must be developed to increase health equity among mothers and newborns.

Keywords: epidemiology; health services research; mortality; neonatology.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors