Introduction: Almost one-fifth of the world\'s population constitutes women of reproductive age who are repeatedly exposed to pregnancy and childbearing. Many are often at high risk of illness and mortality during pregnancy and require maternal healthcare services for early detection of complications. More than 0.5 million women die every year worldwide due to pregnancy-related complications. Almost 0.03 million of them are in Pakistan. Maternal healthcare in Pakistan is poor and results in high rates of morbidity and mortality. This paper evaluates the accessibility of antenatal care (ANC) services in primary healthcare settings in the Punjab province of Pakistan during the period June 2010-August 2011. Methods: The paper uses a cross-sectional study including mix methods (qualitative and quantitative).Nine districts were included in the project; one from each administrative tier or division. Nineteen health facilities, including two rural health centres (RHCs) and 17 basic health units (BHUs) were randomly selected from each district. The total sample was 171 health facilities. The qualitative assessment was carried out through focus-group discussions (FGDs) and in-depth interviews with clients, providers, and health managers. Results: The reasons for the gaps in service accessibility were the distant location of facilities, a lack of transport, and inconvenient facility working hours. The issues of service accessibility were further exacerbated by socio-cultural factors such as low levels of client awareness, a lack of decision-making by clients, and the influence of spiritual healers and quacks. Health managers further pointed out weak co-ordination between vertical programmes and routine integrated health services, and a lack of human resources in distantly located facilities.
Conclusion: In order to increase the accessibility of ANC services, facility working hours must be extended and adjusted according to the convenience of clients in primary healthcare (PHC) facilities. The utilisation of ANC services can also be increased through client awareness and gender empowerment for ANC decision-making.
Journal of Pakistan Medical Association
(2013). Accessibility of antenatal services at primary healthcare facilities in Punjab, Pakistan. Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, 63(4), 60-66.
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