Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Examining equity in out-of-pocket expenditures and utilization of healthcare services in Malawi Public Deposited

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  • Best international health practice requires that all people benefit equally from health care services regardless of their socio-economic status and that healthcare payments be based on ability to pay. Although recent household surveys in Malawi show progress in a number of health indicators population averages, many inequalities in health outcomes still exist or are widening among households stratified by socioeconomic and geographical location variables. Inequalities in out-of-pocket expenditures (OOPEs) for healthcare and how they influence utilization of healthcare services are of particular interest to policy makers as they ultimately affect overall health of households. The rationale for this study is that analysis of inequities in healthcare between socioeconomic groups can help to unmask intra-group and between groups' inequities hidden in national population averages. The study's three main papers examined equity in households' out-of-pocket healthcare payments and utilization of medical care. The study adopted the widely used economic frameworks and techniques developed by O'Donnell et al (2008) for analyzing health equity using household data. These economic frameworks focus on the notion of equal treatment for equal need and that payment for healthcare should be according to ability to pay. The Malawi Integrated Household Survey 2(2005) (MIHS2) was the main dataset used in the analysis. The MIHS2 is currently the only dataset that presents inequalities in healthcare expenditures at the household level in Malawi. However, the MIHS2 report does not examine the extent to which these inequalities are inequities. It is in this context that the first study focused on assessing, first, the progressivity of OOPEs for healthcare and second, the redistributive effect of OOPEs for healthcare as a source of finance in the Malawi health system. The progressivity results indicate that OOPEs for healthcare are relatively regressive in Malawi with the poor shouldering the highest financial burden relative to their ability to pay. The study found no evidence of redistributive effect of OOPEs on income inequalities in Malawi. The second study focused on linking OOPEs to use of healthcare using the recommended two-part model (Probit and OLS). The concentration indices were decomposed into contributing factors after standardizing for health need factors, which include age, sex, self-assessed health, chronic illness and disabilities. Probability of use of healthcare and OOPEs were both found to be concentrated among the non-poor while the poor who have higher health need have less use of healthcare. The last study assessed the socioeconomic factors associated with horizontal equity in use of medical facilities and predicted use using logistic regression. General medical facilities use was found to be more concentrated among the non-poor despite the poor having a higher health need. The results showed no significant inequalities in use of public medical facilities and self-treatment between the poor and the non-poor. Overall, inequalities in healthcare utilization and out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures in Malawi are mainly influenced by socioeconomic factors, which are non-need factors than health need factors. Inequalities due to non-need factors suggest presence of inequities, which are avoidable and unjust. This study can help policy makers have a better understanding of the possible effects of OOPEs and help in explaining the factors contributing to inequities in medical care utilization in Malawi. Such information is necessary so that highest priority should be given to the health problems or challenges disproportionately affecting households with varying levels of socioeconomic privilege.
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