Are maternal healthcare services accessible to vulnerable group? A study among women with disabilities in rural Nepal

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© 2018 Devkota et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Background Studies report that vulnerable groups like people with disabilities have less access to healthcare. This study compares health service access between women with and without disabilities in general and explores the challenges encountered by women with disabilities in accessing maternal healthcare services during pregnancy. Methods A mixed method study was conducted in Rupandehi district of Nepal implementing a cross-sectional survey among 354 women including 79 women with disabilities, supplemented by 43 in-depth interviews. Descriptive and bivariate statistical analysis of quantitative data using Pearson’s Chi-square test for association was carried out, while qualitative data were analysed following the theme content analysis using a framework approach. Results The vast majority of women from both groups, women with and without disabilities (71% vs 74%) reported that the nearest health facility from their location was more than 30 minutes walking distance (P>0.05). Half of the women with disabilities walked to health facilities for ANC check-ups. Over one-third of women without disabilities and a slightly lesser proportion of women with disabilities (29%) used a low-cost means of transport (rikshaw, bi/tri-cycles) (P>0.05). Distribution of health facilities found uneven and poorly linked with road transport facilities. None of the health facilities accommodated the needs of women with disabilities with accessible buildings and convenient opening time. The travel cost and the extra cost of services, staff shortage, often delayed and inadequate drug supplies were common problems for both women with and without disabilities. Unavailability of beds during delivery, insensitive providers with negative attitudes and abusive behaviour, inadequate knowledge and experience in providing services to the people with disabilities as well as unwelcoming health facility environment made services particularly inaccessible to women with disabilities. Conclusion Maternal healthcare services are not easily and equitably accessible to women with disabilities. To increase access to healthcare for this vulnerable group, improvements are needed in distribution and management of resources from transportation through service delivery, as well as improved provider knowledge and awareness of a human rights approach to disability and health.




Devkota, H. R., Murray, E., Kett, M., & Groce, N. (2018). Are maternal healthcare services accessible to vulnerable group? A study among women with disabilities in rural Nepal. PLoS ONE, 13(7).

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