Healthcare access and the patterns of maternal health care utilization among poor and non-poor women living in urban areas in Portugal


Introduction: Studies on attitudes and practices are increasingly used but not specifically related to the motivations for the use of reproductive health care among women of fertile age, living in urban areas and in different social contexts. Objectives: The aim of this study was to estimate the associations between the variables of social status (degree of poverty in the studied groups) and the variables of fecundity (representations, tensions, practices and control of fertility) and, in addition, to compare access to health care in the different studied groups, assessing the association between use of maternal health care and poverty in urban areas. Design: A case-control study was conducted in the Municipality of Lisbon, Portugal, with a total sample of 1513 women of fertile age: 499 cases of women considered very poor were selected from the database of beneficiaries of RSI (Social Welfare Payment for Inclusion); 1014 controls (two controls for each selected case), divided as 507 poor women selected from the other beneficiaries of Santa Casa da Misericórdia in Lisbon and 507 non-poor women selected from four Health Centers from the Municipality of Lisbon, Portugal. A total of 1054 women answered the questionnaire: 304 cases (response rate of 61%) and 750 (response rate of 74%) controls. The statistical analysis involved descriptive analysis and multinomial logistic regression. Results: The analysis confirms the association between poverty and patterns and representations of fecun

dity regarding pregnancy planning. The results of this study thus show the existence of different distributions on several variables and the gradients of poverty. Regarding access to health care, the major impact of poverty on women is limiting access to pharmaceuticals. The incapacity to afford the cost of health care appears as a central aspect of access to health care. Conclusion: A number of factors seem to be associated with poverty in women, such as ethnicity, single motherhood, low household income, low household size, low educational level of women and marital status. The association of poverty with not planning the pregnancy of the last child on one hand and large household size on the other hand points to a vicious circle that sustains poverty and leads to extreme poverty. Limited financial access to health care seems to mediate the association between women’s poverty and low coverage with family planning as well as the lack of access to safe termination of pregnancy.

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Craveiro, I. , Ferrinho, P. , de Sousa, B. and Gonçalves, L. (2013) Healthcare access and the patterns of maternal health care utilization among poor and non-poor women living in urban areas in Portugal. Health, 5, 1954-1964. doi: 10.4236/health.2013.512265.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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