Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Trends in sociodemographic and health-related indicators in Bangladesh, 1993–2007: will inequities persist?

Md Mobarak Hossain Khan, Alexander Krämer, Aklimunnessa Khandoker, Luise Prüfer-Krämer & Anwar Islam


To assess levels, trends and gaps between the poorest and the richest in selected health and human development indicators in Bangladesh.


Data for selected indicators associated with sociodemographic characteristics among ever-married women, contraception use, child vaccination, antenatal care practices and health conditions were extracted from the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in 1993–94, 1996–1997, 1999–2000, 2004 and 2007. Results for the whole sample and for the poorest and the richest wealth quintiles are presented.


Positive trends were noted in urbanization, availability of electricity, age at first marriage, use of modern contraception, access to skilled antenatal care, child vaccination, knowledge of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and overweight and obesity. In contrast, negative trends were seen in factors such as literacy, infant and child mortality, fertility rate, home delivery and malnutrition and underweight. However, changes in these indicators differed between the poorest and richest quintiles. For instance, only the richest quintile experienced rapid urbanization, whereas illiteracy declined more among the poorest. Noteworthy gaps were found in almost all factors. Rich–poor gaps in urbanization, age at marriage, fertility, condom use, home delivery and overweight increased; in contrast, gaps in education, water and sanitation, use of contraception (except condoms) and child vaccination declined.


Persistent inequities in Bangladesh endanger equitable and sustainable human development in the country. Pro-poor development strategies based on the principles of equity and quality should be implemented to narrow existing gaps and further promote holistic and equitable human development.