Impact of free maternity policies in Kenya: an interrupted time-series analysis
Orangi S, Kairu A, Malla L, Ondera J, Mbuthia B, Ravishankar N, Barasa E
BMJ Glob Health. 2021;6
BACKGROUND: User fees have been reported to limit access to services and increase inequities. As a result, Kenya introduced a free maternity policy in all public facilities in 2013. Subsequently in 2017, the policy was revised to the Linda Mama programme to expand access to private sector, expand the benefit package and change its management. METHODS: An interrupted time-series analysis on facility deliveries, antenatal care (ANC) and postnatal care (PNC) visits data between 2012 and 2019 was used to determine the effect of the two free maternity policies. These data were from 5419 public and 305 private and faith-based facilities across all counties, with data sourced from the health information system. A segmented negative binomial regression with seasonality accounted for, was used to determine the level (immediate) effect and trend (month-on-month) effect of the policies. RESULTS: The 2013 free-maternity policy led to a 19.6% and 28.9% level increase in normal deliveries and caesarean sections, respectively, in public facilities. There was also a 1.4% trend decrease in caesarean sections in public facilities. A level decrease followed by a trend increase in PNC visits was reported in public facilities. For private and faith-based facilities, there was a level decrease in caesarean sections and ANC visits followed by a trend increase in caeserean sections following the 2013 policy.Furthermore, the 2017 Linda Mama programme showed a level decrease then a trend increase in PNC visits and a 1.1% trend decrease in caesarean sections in public facilities. In private and faith-based facilities, there was a reported level decrease in normal deliveries and caesarean sections and a trend increase in caesarean sections. CONCLUSION: The free maternity policies show mixed effects in increasing access to maternal health services. Emphasis on other accessibility barriers and service delivery challenges alongside user fee removal policies should be addressed to realise maximum benefits in maternal health utilisation.