How the structural determinants of health inequities impact access to prescription medication for pregnant women in Australia: a narrative review


Health inequities during pregnancy, particularly in access to prescription medications, are shaped by various structural determinants in Australia. This narrative review aims to explore these determinants and their impact on the healthcare system, ultimately affecting pregnant women’s access to essential medications.

  1. Socioeconomic Status:

Socioeconomic factors play a pivotal role in determining access to prescription medications. Lower socioeconomic status often correlates with limited financial resources, hindering pregnant women from affording necessary medications. Australia’s public healthcare system, while robust, may face challenges in catering to the diverse economic backgrounds of its population, potentially exacerbating health disparities.

  1. Geographic Disparities:

Australia’s vast geography poses challenges to healthcare access, especially in remote and rural areas. Limited access to healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals can impede pregnant women’s ability to obtain timely prescriptions and follow-up care. The uneven distribution of resources contributes to disparities in health outcomes, affecting medication accessibility during pregnancy.

  1. Indigenous Health Disparities:

Indigenous Australians face unique health challenges, including disparities in prescription medication access during pregnancy. Cultural factors, historical injustices, and systemic barriers contribute to reduced healthcare accessibility for Indigenous women. Addressing these disparities requires culturally sensitive approaches and targeted interventions to ensure equitable access to prescription medications.

  1. Health System Structure:

The structure of the healthcare system itself influences access to prescription medications. Fragmentation and gaps in communication between primary care providers, obstetricians, and pharmacists can result in delays or barriers to obtaining necessary medicines during pregnancy. Streamlining communication and fostering collaboration among healthcare professionals is essential for improving medication access.

  1. Policy and Regulatory Frameworks:

Government policies and regulations shape the landscape of healthcare delivery, including access to prescription medications. Complex regulatory processes, such as drug approval and subsidy systems, may inadvertently create barriers to timely access. An examination of these policies and the identification of areas for improvement can enhance equitable access for pregnant women.

  1. Health Literacy:

Health literacy is a critical determinant influencing the ability to navigate healthcare systems and adhere to medication regimens. Pregnant women with lower health literacy may struggle to comprehend prescription instructions or advocate for their healthcare needs. Improving health literacy through education and accessible information can empower women to participate actively in their healthcare decisions.


Access to prescription medications during pregnancy in Australia is intricately linked to structural determinants of health inequities. Addressing these determinants requires a comprehensive approach involving healthcare system reforms, policy changes, and targeted interventions to bridge gaps in access. By recognizing and actively mitigating these structural barriers, Australia can strive towards a healthcare system that ensures equitable access to prescription medications for all pregnant women, promoting the well-being of both mothers and their infants.