As enshrined in the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) - “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” - improving health status remains a global and national agenda. In particular, is the health status of mothers and children, which is also reflected in the first two targets of the third Sustainable Development Goal. In the light of this backdrop, this report presents analyses of health outcomes of children and mothers in Ghana, using data from the Demographic Health Surveys (1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2014). The specific objectives are to:
(1) explore trends in selected health outcomes specifically, children’s immunization, nutritional, mortality and anemia status and their experiences with acute lower respiratory infection, fever and diarrhea as well as mother’s nutritional status, fertility, mortality, use of postnatal and antenatal care and family planning;
(2) examine the effect of preceding birth interval (spacing) of mothers on the nutritional status of their children; and
(3) determine the nature of the relationship between preceding birth interval and the nutritional status of children.
In relation to the second and third objectives, specific research hypotheses tested were (1) the relationship between birth spacing and child health is non-linear (two turning points) and (2) wider birth spacing among older mothers is associated with low risk of child stunting compared to lower birth spacing among younger mothers. The motivation for the two hypotheses was that, in Ghana, the concept of ‘pension babies’ - children given birth at a later stage to cater for house chores during the pension period of parents - is gradually becoming an accepted and ‘glorified’ norm without a careful assessment of the health implications on both children and mothers.
The analyses are expected to incite researchers to interrogate underlying causes of changes that have occurred over time and also, across different correlates of selected health outcomes. From a policy perspective, the analyses aim at establishing the specific birth interval that is ideal in fostering better nutritional status of children and also provide an advocacy platform positing that child spacing should take cognisance of other factors specifically, age of the mother and the nature of the relationship.