Health and Inequalities
This study describes the behavior of health inequalities in Brazil between 1980 and 2010 and revisit theoretical and methodological difficulties on researching this topic. The behavior of infant mortality and life expectancy in Brazil’s municipalities was investigated, attempting to identify the relationship between these indicators, on the one hand, and income, income inequality, supply of public health services and basic sanitation, and education, on the other. Over the course of that period, considerable improvements were recorded in both infant mortality rates and life expectancy at birth as well as in reducing the inequalities in these indicators among Brazil’s regions, states, and municipalities. A robust and statistically significant association was found between health indicators and mean income in the municipalities. That association was also positive for women’s level of education. Contrary to expectations, no association was found between expansion of public health care service supply and improvement in health indicators. An exercise to deepen the analysis, considering health inequalities between socioeconomic and racial groups, was made by calculating mortality rates directly, which yielded unsubstantial results. Improvement in Brazil’s vital statistics recording systems will make it possible – beyond the reach of this study – to examine the contribution made by the Brazilian public health system, the SUS, to improving health conditions and reducing health inequalities.
KeywordsHealth inequalities Brazilian public health system SUS Infant mortality Life expectancy
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