Supply-side barriers to maternity care at health-sub-centres in rural India

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There exist several barriers to maternal health service utilization in developing countries. Most of the previous studies conducted in India have focused on demand-side barriers, while only a few have touched upon supply-side barriers. None of the previous studies in India have investigated the factors that affect maternal health care utilization at health sub-centers (HSCs) in India, despite the fact that these institutions, which are the geographically closest available public health care facilities in rural areas, play a significant role in providing affordable maternal health care. Therefore, this study aims to examine the supply-side determinants of maternal service utilization at HSCs in rural India.

Data and Methods

This study uses health facility data from the nationally representative District-Level Household Survey, which was administered in 2007–2008 to examine the effect of supply-side variables on the utilization of maternal health care services across HSCs in rural India. Since the dependent variables (the number of antenatal registrations, in-facility deliveries, and postnatal care services) are count variables and exhibit considerable variability, the data were analyzed using negative binomial regression instead of Poisson regression.


The results show that those HSCs run by a contractual auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) are likely to offer a lower volume of services when compared to those run by a permanent ANM. The availability of obstetric drugs, weighing scales, and blood pressure equipment is associated with the increased utilization of antenatal and postnatal services. The unavailability of a labor/examination table and bed screen is associated with a reduction in the number of deliveries and postnatal services. The utilization of services is expected to increase if essential facilities, such as water, telephones, toilets, and electricity, are available at the HSCs. Monitoring of ANM’s work by Village Health and Sanitation Committee (VHSC) and providing in-service training to ANM appear to have positive impacts on service utilization. The distance of ANM’s actual residence from the sub-center village where she works is negatively associated with the utilization of delivery and postnatal services. These findings are robust to the inclusion of several demand-side factors.


To improve maternal health care utilization at HSCs, the government shouldensure the availability of basic infrastructure, drugs, and equipment at all locations. Monitoring of the ANMs’ work by VHSCs could play an important role in improving health care utilization at the HSCs; therefore, it is important to establish VHSCs in each sub-center village. The relatively low utilization of maternity services in those HSCs that are run solely by contractual ANMs requires further investigation.