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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


ARTEAGA, Óscar; THOLLAUG, Susan; NOGUEIRA, Ana Cristina  and  DARRAS, Christian. Information for health equity in Chile. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2002, vol.11, n.5-6, pp.374-385. ISSN 1680-5348.

Objectives. To estimate the magnitude of geographical health inequalities in Chile through key indicators based on data and information that are routinely collected and easily obtained, and to characterize the current situation with respect to the availability, quality, and access to information on health equity that official sources routinely collect. Methods. A conceptual framework proposed by the World Health Organization was used to study health equity in terms of four dimensions: 1) state of health, 2) health determinants, 3) resources for and the supply of health system services, and 4) utilization of health system services. For each of these four dimensions, indicators were selected for which there was available information. The information was aggregated according to geographical and administrative units in the country: communes (342 in Chile), sanitary districts called "Health Services" (28), and regions (13). The aggregated information was analyzed using univariate analysis (distribution characteristics), bivariate analysis (correlations and frequency tables), and tabulation of values for selected indicators for the communes. Results. With respect to the first dimension, state of health, we found an inverse relationship between mortality and average family income in the communes (r = -0.24; P < 0.001; n = 191 communes). With health determinants, there were important differences among the communes with regard to average household income, years of schooling, literacy, quality of housing, drinking water supply, and the wastewater disposal system. In terms of resources for and the supply of health system services, the municipal governments of the communes with higher average household incomes tended to contribute more funds per beneficiary (r = 0.19; P = 0.013). The financial contributions from the national government were targeted well, but they only partially compensated for the more-limited resources available in poorer communes. With respect to the utilization of health care services per beneficiary in the different sanitary districts, we found some large differences. In terms of the ratio between the highest rate of utilization in any of the districts and the lowest rate in any other district, the ratio for primary-care visits per beneficiary was 2.8, the ratio for emergency-care visits was 3.9, and the ratio for hospitalizations was 2.0. Conclusions. There are important geographical differences in Chile with respect to mortality and other health outcomes, income and environmental conditions, and the financing and utilization of health care services. The information that is collected regularly and is available to characterize the health-related variables frequently has limitations in terms of quality, sustainability, and access. In Chile it would be pointless to focus the greatest efforts on reorganizing the information systems. The existing indicators showing marked inequalities are adequate to support the planning of interventions aimed at making urgently needed improvements in the situation of the worst-off Chileans.

Keywords : Equidad; Chile; información; estado de salud; determinantes de salud; recursos y oferta del sistema de salud; utilización de servicios del sistema de salud.

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