Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Print version ISSN 0042-9686
RUTHERFORD, Merrin E et al. Access to health care and mortality of children under 5 years of age in the Gambia: a case-control study. Bull World Health Organ [online]. 2009, vol.87, n.3, pp. 216-224. ISSN 0042-9686. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0042-96862009000300016.
OBJECTIVE: To assess whether traditional measures of access to health care (distance and travel time to a facility) and non-traditional measures (social and financial support indicators) are associated with mortality among children under 5 years of age in the Gambia. METHODS: We conducted a case-control study in a population under demographic surveillance. Cases (n = 140) were children under 5 years of age who died between 31 December 2003 and 30 April 2006. Each case was matched in age and sex to five controls (n = 700). Information was gathered by interviewing primary caregivers. The data were analysed using conditional logistic regression. FINDINGS: Of traditional measures of access, only rural versus urban/periurban residence was important: children from rural areas were more likely to die (OR: 4.9; 95% confidence interval, CI: 1.2-20.2). For non-traditional measures, children were more likely to die if their primary caregivers lacked help with meal preparation (OR: 2.3; 95% CI: 1.2-4.1), had no one to relax with (OR: 1.8; 95% CI: 1.1-2.9), had no one who could offer good advice (OR: 23.1; 95% CI: 4.3-123.4), had little say over how earned money was spent (OR: 12.7; 95% CI: 1.3-127.6), were unable to cut spending for health care (OR: 2.5; 95% CI: 1.5-4.2) or had to carry out odd jobs to pay for the care (OR: 3.4; 95% CI: 2.1-5.5). A protective effect was observed when the caregiver had other children to care for (OR: 0.2; 95% CI: 0.1-0.5). CONCLUSION: Improving access to health-care for children in the Gambia and similar settings is not simply a matter of reducing travel time and distance to a health facility, but requires improvements in caregivers' support networks and their access to the financial resources they need.