Barriers to access and utilization of healthcare by children with neurological impairments and disability in low-and middle-income countries: a systematic review
Background: Neurological impairments (NI) and disability are common among older children in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). We conducted a systematic review to examine the barriers limiting access and utilization of biomedical and rehabilitative care by children and adolescents with NI in LMICs. Methods: We searched PubMed, Latin America and Caribbean Health Sciences Literature, Global Index Medicus, and Google Scholar for studies published between 01/01/1990 and 14/11/2019 to identify relevant studies. We included all studies reporting on barriers limiting access and utilization of preventive, curative, and rehabilitative care for children aged 0-19 years with NI in five domains: epilepsy, and cognitive, auditory, visual, and motor function impairment. Data from primary studies were synthesized using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Results: Our literature searches identified 3,258 reports of which 20 were included in the final analysis. Fifteen studies (75.0%) originated from diverse settings in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Factors limiting access and utilization of healthcare services in >50% of the studies were: financial constraints (N=17, 85.0%), geographical and physical inaccessibility (N=14, 70.0%), inadequate healthcare resources (N=14, 70.0%), prohibitive culture and beliefs (N=12, 60.0%), and inadequate education/awareness (N=11, 55.0%). Factors reported in <50% of the studies included competing domestic roles (N=4, 20%) and a lack of confidentiality for personal information (N=2, 10.0%). Very few reports were identified from outside Africa preventing a statistical analysis by continent and economic level. Conclusions: Financial constraints, geographic and physical inaccessibility, and inadequate healthcare resources were the most common barriers limiting access and utilization of healthcare services by children with NI in LMICs. PROSPERO registration: CRD42020165296 (28/04/2020).