An analysis of the gender and social determinants of health in urban poor areas of the most populated cities of Pakistan

Khawaja Aftab Ahmed, John Grundy, Lubna Hashmat, Imran Ahmed, Saadia Farrukh, Dexter Bersonda, Muhammad Akram Shah, Soofia Yunus, Hari Krishna Banskota

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Recent surveys, studies and reviews in urban areas of Pakistan have highlighted the impacts of social inequities on access of women and children to health services for women and children in Pakistan. Objectives: The Urban Slum Profiles and coverage surveys were conducted between 2017 and 2019. The objective of the profiles was to obtain an updated listing of slums and other underserved areas, and to better understand current vaccination and health service coverage in these areas. Utilising findings from these studies, this paper aims to better understand the gender and social determinants of health that are giving rise to health inequalities in the slums. Methods: The Urban Slum Profiles adopted a mixed methods approach combining both qualitative and quantitative methods. The study was comprised of two main survey approaches of Urban Slum Profiles and Immunisation Coverage Survey in 4431 urban poor areas of the 10 most highly populated cities of Pakistan. Results: Findings are classified into six analytic categories of (1) access to health services, (2) female workforce participation, (3) gender-friendly health services, (4) access to schools and literacy, (5) social connections, and (6) autonomy of decision making. Out of a national sample of 14,531 children in urban poor areas of 10 cities, the studies found that just over half of the children are fully immunised (54%) and 14% of children had received zero doses of vaccine. There are large shortages of health facilities and female health workforce in the slums, with significant gaps in the quality of health infrastructure, which all serve to limit both demand for, and supply of, health services for women and children. Results demonstrate low availability of schools, low levels of female literacy and autonomy over decision making, limited knowledge of the benefits of vaccination, and few social connections outside the home. All these factors interact and reinforce existing gender norms and low levels of health literacy and service access. Conclusion: The Urban Slum profiles and coverage studies provide an opportunity to introduce gender transformative strategies that include expansion of a female health workforce, development of costed urban health action plans, and an enabling policy environment to support community organisation and more equitable health service delivery access.

Original languageEnglish
Article number52
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Gender
  • Immunization
  • Pakistan
  • Primary health care
  • Social determinants
  • Vaccination


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