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Socioeconomic inequalities in under-five mortality in rural Bangladesh: evidence from seven national surveys spreading over 20 years

Future Health Systems

Chowdhury AH, Hanifi SMA, Mia MN and Bhuiya A (2017) Socioeconomic inequalities in under-five mortality in rural Bangladesh: evidence from seven national surveys spreading over 20 years, International Journal for Equity in Health (2017) 16:197, DOI: 10.1186/s12939-017-0693-9


Background: Socioeconomic inequality in health and mortality remains a disturbing reality across nations including Bangladesh. Inequality drew renewed attention globally. Bangladesh though made impressive progress in health, it makes an interesting case for learning. This paper examined the trends and changing pattern of socioeconomic inequalities in under-five mortality in rural Bangladesh. It also examined whether mother’s education had any effect in reducing socioeconomic inequalities.

Methods: Data from rural samples of seven Bangladesh Demographic Health Surveys, carried out so far, were used. Children born alive during 5 years preceding the surveys were included in the analysis. Univariate, bivariate and multivariate analyses were carried out.

Results: Under-five mortality rate steadily declined over the years from 128/1000 in 1994 to 48 in 2014. Females had 8% lower mortality rates than males. Children of mothers with no schooling had 1.88 times higher mortality than those whose mother had six or more years of schooling. Similarly, children from low asset category households had on an average 1.17 times higher mortality rate than those from high asset category households. Inequality by mother’s education disappeared in the recent years, and inequality by household socioeconomic condition persisted all through. The pattern of inequality by sex, mother’s education, and household socioeconomic status was not changed statistically significantly over the years, and mothers’ education did not reduce socioeconomic inequalities.

Discussion: The reduction in mortality was consistent with changes in the proximate determinants of child survival in the country. Proximate determinants included maternal factors, environmental contamination, nutrient deficiency, personal illness control, and injury. Health and population programmes have been effective in increasing immunization coverage, use of ORS for managing diarrhoeal diseases, and increasing contraceptive use. Development activities on the other hand raised the literacy, especially among females, demand for modern health services, and reduction of poverty. However, socioeconomic inequality still exists in both under-five mortality and proximate determinants of child survival.

Conclusions: The socioeconomic inequality in under-five mortality is showing resistance against further reduction. An assessment of the adequacy of the existing programmes taking the proximate determinants of child survival into consideration will be useful for further improvement.