Back to search

Measuring Equity of Access to Health Services in Practice: Example of Eye Health Outreach Camps in Rural Malawi

Abstract Introduction
Equity in the access and use of health services is critical if countries are to make progress towards universal health coverage and address the systematic exclusion of the most vulnerable groups. The purpose of this study was to assess if the Co-ordinated Approach To Community Health programme implemented by Sightsavers was successful in reaching the poorest population and people living with disabilities in Kasungu district, Malawi. Outreach camps were organized to provide a range of integrated eye care services.

Between April and September 2017, data on socio-economic status, household characteristics and functional disability were collected from patients attending at eye camps in Kasungu district, Malawi. Results were compared to Demographic Health Surveys and Integrated Household Surveys data. Using asset-based questions on household characteristics (EquityTool© and Simple Poverty Scorecard©) and the Washington Group Short Set of Questions, individuals were categorized by wealth quintiles, poverty status, and functional disability status.

A total of 1,358 participants participated in the study. The study shows that self-reported data on household characteristics and assets are reliable and can be collected in clinical settings (instead of relying on direct observations).Individuals attending outreach camps were poorer in terms of relative wealth and absolute poverty rates compared to the rest of the population in Kasungu. It was estimated that 9% of the participants belonged to the poorest quintile compared to 4% for the population in Kasungu (DHS 2015–2016). The ultra-poverty rate was also lower among respondents (13%) compared to 15% for Kasungu district (IHS 2017). The functional disability rate was 27.5% for study participants, and statistically higher among women and relatively poorer household dwellers.

Our study shows that existing tools can be reliably used and combined to assess equity of access to health services for vulnerable groups of the population. The findings suggest that the programme was successful in reaching the poorest people of the Kasungu district population as well as those with non-visual disabilities through outreach camps. However, it is essential to use sub-national data (district or regional level) from recent surveys for the purpose of benchmarking in order to produce accurate results.

More information

Trotignon G
Jones I
Ali SS
Mugwang’a Z
Engels T
Bechange S
Kamwendo E
Schmidt E
Year of Publication
Publication Language