Research on institutional child delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa typically focuses on availability and accessibility of health facilities. Cultural factors, including religion, that may facilitate or hinder the use of such services have not been well examined and remain poorly understood.
The relationship between religious affiliation and delivery in a health facility was explored using data from a household survey of 1,297 women aged 18–50 and a census of 825 religious congregations, both conducted in a predominantly Christian district in Mozambique in 2008. Multilevel logistic regression analyses were conducted to predict the likelihood of recent institutional delivery according to both individual religious affiliation and the concentration of religious congregations of certain denominations in the community of residence.
Approximately 63% of deliveries occurred in a health facility. The odds of such deliveries were lower among women who belonged to Apostolic churches or had no religious affiliation than among members of Catholic or mainline Protestant churches, net of other factors (odds ratios, 0.5 and 0.6, respectively). In addition, regardless of a woman's religion, the odds that she had an institutional delivery increased by 9% for each additional Catholic or mainline Protestant congregation in her community of residence (1.1).
Organized religion is associated with critical health outcomes in Mozambique and, potentially, in other Sub-Saharan African contexts. Policymakers should consider designing programs and interventions that promote the use of institutional delivery services among members of religious groups characterized by low use of these services and in areas where such religious groups have a strong presence.
Boaventura Manuel Cau is associate professor, Department of Geography, Eduardo Mondlane University, and the Center for Population and Health Research—both in Maputo, Mozambique. Victor Agadjanian is professor, Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.