Health system barriers influencing perinatal survival in mountain villages of Nepal: implications for future policies and practices

Mohan Paudel, Sara Javanparast, Lareen Newman, Gouranga Dasvarma

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BACKGROUND: This paper aims to examine the health care contexts shaping perinatal survival in remote mountain villages of Nepal. Health care is provided through health services to a primary health care level-comprising district hospital, village health facilities and community-based health services. The paper discusses the implications for future policies and practice to improve health access and outcomes related to perinatal health. The study was conducted in two remote mountain villages in one of the most remote and disadvantaged mountain districts of Nepal. The district is reported to rank as the country's lowest on the Human Development Index and to have the worst child survival rates. The two villages provided a diversity of socio-cultural and health service contexts within a highly disadvantaged region.

METHODS: The study findings are based on a qualitative study of 42 interviews with women and their families who had experienced perinatal deaths. These interviews were supplemented with 20 interviews with health service providers, female health volunteers, local stakeholders, traditional healers and other support staff. The data were analysed by employing an inductive thematic analysis technique.

RESULTS: Three key themes emerged from the study related to health care delivery contexts: (1) Primary health care approach: low focus on engagement and empowerment; (2) Quality of care: poor acceptance, feeling unsafe and uncomfortable in health facilities; and (3) Health governance: failures in delivering health services during pregnancy and childbirth.

CONCLUSIONS: The continuing high perinatal mortality rates in the mountains of Nepal are not being addressed due to declining standards in the primary health care approach, health providers' professional misbehaviour, local health governance failures, and the lack of cultural acceptance of formalised care by the local communities. In order to further accelerate perinatal survival in the region, policy makers and programme implementers need to immediately address these contextual factors at local health service delivery points.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of health, population, and nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2018


  • Disadvantage
  • Health governance
  • Maternity care
  • Nepal
  • Perinatal death
  • Primary health care
  • Quality of care
  • Stillbirth


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