Women's education and coverage of skilled birth attendance: An assessment of Sustainable Development Goal 3.1 in the South and Southeast Asian Region


The objective of Sustainable Development Goal 3.1 is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) below 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030. One of the indicators for this objective is the proportion of births attended by skilled health attendants (SBA). This study assessed the progress of low- and middle-income countries from South and Southeast Asian (SSEA) region in SBA coverage and evaluated the contribution of women’s education in this progression. The Demographic and Health Surveys were assessed, which included 38 nationally representative surveys on women aged between 15-49 years from 10 selected SSEA region countries in past 30 years. Binary Logistic regression models were fitted adjusting the survey clusters, strata and sampling weights. Meta-analyses were conducted by collapsing effect sizes and confidence intervals of education modeled on SBA coverage. Results indicated that Cambodia, Indonesia and Philippines had over 80% SBA coverage after 2010, whereas Bangladesh and Afghanistan had around 50% coverage. Women with primary, secondary and higher level of education were 1.65, 2.21 and 3.14 times significantly more likely to access SBA care during childbirth respectively as compared to women with no education, suggesting that education is a key factor to address skilled delivery cares in the SSEA region. Evaluation of the existing skilled birth attendance policies at the national level could provide useful insight for the decision makers to improve access to skilled care at birth by investing on women’s education in remote and rural areas.