Private Health Care Market Shaping and Equity in Childhood Diarrhea Treatment: Evidence From Data Analysis of an ORS and Zinc Scale-up Program in Eight States Across Nigeria
Background: Nearly 90,000 under-five children die from diarrhoea annually in Nigeria. Over 90% of the deaths can be prevented with oral rehydration salt (ORS) and zinc treatment but coverage nationally was less than 34% for ORS and 3% for zinc with wide inequities. A program was implemented in eight states to address critical barriers to the optimal functioning of the health care market to deliver these treatments. However, it has been argued that initiatives that engage the private sector may
... private sector may worsen inequities due to their profit motive.Methods: Changes in disparities in the coverage of ORS and zinc treatments by socioeconomic strata and geographical location were assessed using data from cross-sectional baseline and endline surveys.Results: At baseline, 28% (95% CI: 22 - 35%) of children with diarrhoea from the poorest wealth quintile received ORS compared to 50% (95% CI: 52 - 58%) from the richest. This inequality reduced at endline as ORS coverage increased by 21%-points (P = 0.000) for the poorest and 17%-points (P = 0.000) for the richest. Zinc coverage increased significantly for both quintiles at endline from an equally low baseline coverage level. Consistent with the findings of the pairwise comparison of the poorest and the richest, the summary measure of disparity across all wealth quintiles showed a narrowing of inequities from baseline to endline. Concentration curves shifted towards equality for both treatments, concentration index declined from 0.1012 to 0.0480 for ORS and from 0.2640 to 0.0567 for zinc. Disparities in ORS and zinc coverage between rural and urban at both time points was insignificant except that the use of zinc in the rural at endline was significantly higher at 38% (95%CI: 35 - 41%) compared to 29% (95%CI: 25 - 33%) in the urban.Conclusion: The results show a pro-rural improvement in coverage and a reduction in coverage inequities across wealth quintiles from baseline to endline. This gives an indication that initiatives focused on shaping healthcare market systems may be effective in reducing health coverage gaps without detracting from equity as a health policy objective.