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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

ETCHEGOYEN, Graciela; PAGANINI, José María  and  CONSORCIO INTERDISCIPLINARIO MULTICENTRICO PARA EL ESTUDIO DE LA INEQUIDAD EN SALUD. The relationship between socioeconomic factors and maternal and infant health programs in 13 Argentine provinces. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2007, vol.21, n.4, pp. 223-230. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892007000300005.

OBJECTIVES: To analyze the relationship between maternal and infant health and socioeconomic, cultural, and sanitation factors in Argentina; to evaluate how health program quality affects the primary health indicators for mothers and infants. METHODS: This is a cross-sectional study with multiple variables. The authors studied six indicators for maternal and infant health: rates for maternal, infant, neonatal, and postneonatal mortality; the percentage of newborns with low birthweight; and the percentage of premature newborns. The study was conducted in 79 administrative units in 13 provinces that represent different geographic regions of Argentina. They included (1) the provinces of Salta and Jujuy in northwest Argentina; (2) the provinces of Córdoba, Santa Fe, and Buenos Aires in central Argentina; (3) the provinces of Entre Ríos and Misiones in the Mesopotamia or northeast region; (4) the provinces of San Luis, San Juan, and Mendoza in the Cuyo or northwest, Andean region; and (5) the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, and Chubut in the south. The explanatory variable in the study was the quality of health programs, controlled by socioeconomic, cultural, and sanitation factors in 1999 and 2000. The definition of program quality ("poor," "average," "good," and "very good") was based on quantitative and qualitative analysis of selected variables such as policies, organization, and procedures as determined by the investigators. Documentation was obtained from secondary official sources. The investigators interviewed 117 health system managers (including supervisors of provincial and local health programs, administrators of maternal and child health programs, and hospital directors), who provided information on characteristics and indicators of the health programs. RESULTS: There were marked geographic differences in the levels of maternal and infant health, medical care, and socioeconomic, cultural, and sanitation factors. Only 10.0% of health programs were classified as "very good," 35.4% as "good," 31.6% as "average," and 23.0% as "poor." There was a significant correlation (P < 0.05) between rates of infant and postneonatal mortality and adverse socioeconomic circumstances. There was also a significant correlation between the percentage of low birthweight infants and the quality of health programs. CONCLUSIONS: There are clear disparities in the level of maternal and infant health care in different administrative units in Argentina. The infant mortality rate was associated with variations in socioeconomic, cultural, and sanitation factors and with the quality of health programs. Health programs improved infant health when appropriately implemented, even in adverse socioeconomic and sanitation conditions.

Keywords : Socioeconomic factors; maternal health services; infant health services; maternal mortality; infant mortality; Argentina.

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