Does maternal health voucher scheme have association with distance inequality in maternal and newborn care utilization? Evidence from rural Bangladesh

Asiful Haidar Chowdhury, Syed Manzoor Ahmed Hanifi, Mohammad Iqbal, Aazia Hossain, William Stones, Mark Amos, Saseendran Pallikadavath, Abbas Bhuiya, Shehrin shaila Mahmood

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Background: Bangladesh has made substantial progress in maternal health. However, persistent inequities in service use undermine the achievements at the national level. In 2007, the government introduced a Maternal Health Voucher Scheme (MHVS) to reduce barriers to service utilization. The current study explores the impact of MHVS on reducing distance inequality in utilization across the maternal and newborn continuum of care (MNCoC).

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted from October’2017 to April’2018 in four selected MHVS sub-districts of Chattogram and Sylhet Divisions of Bangladesh. 2,400 women with at-least one child aged below two years were randomly selected. Both bivariate and multivariate analyses were carried out to explore the absolute and relative influence of the voucher scheme and chi-square test was used for hypothesis testing.

Results: Nineteen percent of the women were MHVS beneficiaries and 23% of them lived within 5 km of the health facility. Among the beneficiaries no significant differences were observed in the utilization of at-least 4 antenatal visits, skilled-assistance at delivery, postnatal care, and MNCoC between those living closer to the health facility and those living far away. However, a higher facility delivery rate was observed among beneficiary women living closer. By contrast, for non-beneficiaries, a significant difference was found in service use between women living closer to health facilities compared to those living further away.

Conclusion: The study found the use of MNCoC to be similar for all MHVS beneficiaries irrespective of their distance to health facilities whereas non-beneficiary women living further away had lower utilization rates. MHVS could have potentially reduced distance-related inequality for its beneficiaries. However, despite the provision of transport incentives under MHVS the reduction in inequality in facility delivery was limited. We propose a revision of the transportation incentive adjusting for distance, geographical remoteness, road condition, and transport cost to enhance the impact of MHVS.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0295306
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2023


  • UKRI
  • MRC
  • MR/N006267/1

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