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Open Access Research article

Socio-demographic determinants and access to prenatal care in Italy

Manuela Chiavarini1, Donatella Lanari2, Liliana Minelli1 and Luca Salmasi1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Experimental Medicine, Public Health Section, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy

2 Department of Economics, Statistics and Finance, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:174  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-174

Published: 15 April 2014

Abstract

Background

Many governments have made commitments to examine inequalities in healthcare access based on studies assessing the association between several socio-demographic factors and late initiation or fewer prenatal examinations. This study addressed the question of whether socio-demographic determinants were significant in explaining differences in prenatal care in one administrative region of Italy, Umbria.

Methods

Data were obtained from the administrative source of the regional Standard Certificate of Live Births between 2005 and 2010, and were merged with Census data to include a socio-economic deprivation index. Standard and multilevel logistic regression models were used to analyze the magnitude of various individual-level maternal characteristics and socio-demographic indicators, such as nationality, employment status, education with respect to late access to the first examination, and low number of medical visits.

Results

The study involved approximately 37,000 women. The heterogeneous effects of socio-demographic variables were documented on the prenatal care indicators analyzed. A multivariate model showed that women born outside Italy had a higher probability of making their first visit later than the 12th week of pregnancy and low numbers of prenatal medical visits; the estimated odds ratio for the analyzed indicators range from 2.25 to 3.05. Inadequate prenatal healthcare use was also observed in younger and pluriparous women and those with low education; in addition, having a job improved the use of services, possibly through transmission of information of negative consequences due to delayed or few prenatal visits. Interestingly, this study found a substantial reduction in the number of pregnant women who do not use prenatal healthcare services properly.

Conclusions

The aim of this research is to provide more accurate knowledge about the inadequate use of prenatal healthcare in Italy. Results highlight the existence of differences in healthcare use during pregnancy, especially for women from less advantaged social classes (i.e., unemployed or poorly educated). Such inequalities should be examined in all areas of public policy and public services, to ensure equal opportunity for their use.