Original Research

Social factors determining maternal and neonatal mortality in South Africa: A qualitative study

Rose M.M. Mmusi-Phetoe
Curationis | Vol 39, No 1 | a1571 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v39i1.1571 | © 2016 Rose M.M. Mmusi-Phetoe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 May 2015 | Published: 22 June 2016

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Rose M.M. Mmusi-Phetoe, Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa

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Background: South Africa’s maternal mortality ratio has increased from 150/100 000 in 1990 to 269/100 000 live births in 2015 against the Millennium Development Goals 5 (MDG5) target of 38/100 000, indicating slow progress in improving maternal health. The neonatal mortality rate was 14/1000 live births against the MDG4 target of 7/1000. The purpose of the article was to outline the socio-economic factors that determine maternal and neonatal mortality in South African communities.

Objectives: To identify and describe the social determinants of maternal and neonatal mortality in South Africa. Method: A qualitative study using audio-taped individual interviews was conducted. The interviews included 10 pregnant women who were purposefully recruited from the antenatal clinic attendees in a public hospital. The interviews were conducted in isiZulu and later translated into English by the researcher who is fluent in both. Data were analysed using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Commission on Social Determinants of Health framework.

Results: Findings revealed that poverty was an underlying factor to the vulnerability to illness and death of the mothers and their neonates. Other determinants were found to be the nutritional inadequacies, neglect and abuse by male partners, HIV or AIDS, inattention to reproductive health and violation of reproductive rights, and powerlessness of women and health system issues such as poor quality and incompetent health care.

Conclusion: It is apparent that poverty plays a major role in determining the health of mothers and neonates. This requires more coordinated multi-sectorial interventions to address both the social determinants and direct causes of maternal and neonatal deaths.

Keywords: maternal mortality, neonatal mortality, social determinants of health


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Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing  vol: 46  issue: 3  first page: e56  year: 2017  
doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2016.10.009