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Open Access Research article

The long walk to universal health coverage: patterns of inequities in the use of primary healthcare services in Enugu, Southeast Nigeria

Ijeoma L Okoronkwo12*, Obinna E Onwujekwe1 and Francis O Ani23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Administration and Management, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria

2 Department of Nursing Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria

3 School of Nursing, Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:132  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-132

Published: 21 March 2014



Knowledge and understanding of health service usage are necessary for health resource allocation, planning and monitoring the achievement of universal coverage (UHC). There is limited information on patterns of utilization among adult users of primary health care (PHC) services. Lack of understanding of current and past utilization patterns of health services often hinders the improvement of future Primary Health Care (PHC) delivery in the remote areas of developing countries. This paper presents new knowledge on the patterns of utilization of PHC services among adults in Enugu metropolis southeast Nigeria.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in 15 PHC facilities of Enugu North Local Government Area (LGA) from June to July 2012. A total of 360 consenting adult users aged 18 years and above were consecutively recruited as they attended the health facilities. An interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect data from the respondents. A modified Likert scale questionnaire was used to analyze data on patterns of utilization. Utilization of PHC services was compared by gender, socio-economic status (SES) and level of education.


Out of the 360 respondents, (46.9%) utilized PHC services regularly. The components of PHC mostly utilized by respondents were immunization with a mean score of 3.05, treatment of common ailments (2.99) and maternal and child health (2.64). The least poor SES group utilized PHC services the most while the very poor and poor SES groups used PHC services least. There were statistically significant relationships between utilization of PHC services and gender (p = 0.0084), level of education (p = 0.0366) and income (p = 0.0001).


Most adult users in this study did not utilize the health facilities regularly and there were gender, educational and SES inequities in the use of PHC services. These inequities will negate the achievement of universal health coverage with PHC services and should be remedied using appropriate interventions.

Utilization; Primary healthcare (PHC) services; Inequity; Universal health coverage (UHC)