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Social inequalities in access to care at birth and neonatal mortality: an observational study


Objective To look at the association of socioeconomic status (SES) with the suitability of the maternity where children are born and its association with mortality.

Design Retrospective analysis of a prospective cohort constituted using hospital discharge databases.

Setting France

Population Live births in 2012–2014 in maternity hospitals in mainland France followed until discharge from the hospital.

Main outcome measure Unsuitability of the maternity to newborns’ needs based on birth weight and gestational age, early transfers (within 24 hours of birth) and in-hospital mortality.

Results 2 149 454 births were included, among which 155 646 (7.2%) were preterm. Preterm newborns with low SES were less frequently born in level III maternities than those with high SES. They had higher odds of being born in an unsuitable maternity (OR=1.174, 95% CI 1.114 to 1.238 in the lowest SES quintile compared with the highest), and no increase in the odds of an early transfer (OR=0.966, 95% CI 0.849 to 1.099 in the lowest SES quintile compared with the highest). Overall, newborns from the lowest SES quintile had a 40% increase in their odds of dying compared with the highest (OR=1.399, 95% CI 1.235 to 1.584).

Conclusions Newborns with the lowest SES were less likely to be born in level III maternity hospitals compared with those with the highest SES, despite having higher prematurity rates. This was associated with a significantly higher mortality in newborns with the lowest SES. Strategies must be developed to increase health equity among mothers and newborns.

  • epidemiology
  • health services research
  • neonatology
  • mortality

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Access to the original database used in this study may be granted by the French Agence technique de l'information sur l'hospitalisation to researchers complying with French regulations.

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