Improving Access to Antenatal Care for Aboriginal Women in South Australia: Evidence from a Population-Based Study

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Abstract

Introduction:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are two to three times more likely to experience adverse maternal and perinatal outcomes than non-Aboriginal women in Australia. Persisting health inequalities are at least in part explained by late and/or inadequate access to antenatal care.

Methods:

This study draws on data collected in a population-based study of 344 women giving birth to an Aboriginal infant between July 2011 and June 2013 in South Australia to investigate factors associated with engagement in antenatal care.

Results:

About 79.8 percent of mothers accessed antenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy, and 90 percent attended five or more antenatal visits. Compared with women attending mainstream regional services, women attending regional Aboriginal Family Birthing Program services were more likely to access antenatal care in the first trimester (Adj OR 2.5 [1.0–6.3]) and markedly more likely to attend a minimum of five visits (Adj OR 4.3 [1.2–15.1]). Women attending metropolitan Aboriginal Family Birthing Program services were also more likely to attend a minimum of five visits (Adj OR 12.2 [1.8–80.8]) compared with women attending mainstream regional services. Women who smoked during pregnancy were less likely to attend a visit in the first trimester and had fewer visits.

Conclusions:

Scaling up of Aboriginal Family Birthing Program Services in urban and regional areas of South Australia has increased access to antenatal care for Aboriginal families. The involvement of Aboriginal Maternal Infant Care workers, provision of transport for women to get to services, and outreach have been critical to the success of this program.

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