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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


GUILFORD, William Harold; DOWNS, Kara Elizabeth  and  ROYCE, Trevor Joseph. Knowledge of prenatal health care among Costa Rican and Panamanian women. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2008, vol.23, n.6, pp.369-376. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVES: There is evidence that health care during pregnancy is a crucial component in ensuring a safe delivery. Because the infant mortality rate in Costa Rica is almost half the rate of Panama, the researchers tested the hypothesis that women in Costa Rica are more knowledgeable about prenatal health care than women in neighboring Panama. METHODS: A multiple-choice survey was used to evaluate women’s knowledge of prenatal care using WHO recommendations as the nominal standard. Oral surveys were administered to 320 women in Costa Rican and Panamanian health care clinics. The surveys consisted of multiple-choice questions designed to assess four specific domains of knowledge in prenatal care: nutrition, danger signs, threats from illness, and acceptable activities during pregnancy. Survey answers were scored, and significant factors in assessing women’s knowledge of prenatal care were determined using analysis of variance and general linear models. RESULTS: Costa Rican women scored higher than Panamanian women in most domains of knowledge in prenatal health care. Only country of origin and educational level were significant factors in determining knowledge of prenatal care. However, country of origin was a stronger predictor of knowledge of prenatal care than was having completed high school. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that Costa Rican women are more knowledgeable about necessary prenatal care than Panamanian women, and that this difference is probably related to direct education about and promotion of prenatal care in Costa Rica. This suggests an influence of cultural health care awareness that extends beyond the previously established negative correlation between maternal educational level and infant mortality.

Keywords : Maternal health services; prenatal care; health knowledge, attitudes, practice; Costa Rica; Panama.

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