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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

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


WALLACE, Steven P.  and  GUTIERREZ, Verónica F.. Equity of access to health care for older adults in four major Latin American cities. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2005, vol.17, n.5-6, pp.394-409. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVES:  To identify if older adults have equitable access to health services in four major Latin American cities and to determine if the inequities that are found follow the patterns of economic inequality in each of the four nations studied. METHODS:  Data from persons age 60 and over in the cities of São Paulo, Brazil (n = 2 143); Santiago, Chile (n = 1 301); Mexico City, Mexico (n = 1 247); and Montevideo, Uruguay (n = 1 450) were collected through a collaboration led by the Pan American Health Organization. For our study, three process indicators of access (availability, accessibility, and acceptability) and one indicator of actual health services use (visit to a medical doctor in the past 12 months) were analyzed by wealth quintiles, health insurance type, education, health status, and demographic characteristics. RESULTS:  Each of the four cities had a different level of access to care, and those levels of access were only weakly related to per capita national wealth. Given the relatively high level of wealth inequality in Brazil and the lower level in Uruguay, older persons in São Paulo had better-than-expected equity in access to care, while older persons in Montevideo had less equity than expected. Inequity in Mexico City was driven primarily by low levels of health insurance coverage. In Santiago, inequity followed socioeconomic status more than it did health insurance. CONCLUSIONS:  In the four cities studied, health insurance and the operation of health systems mediate the link between economic inequality and inequitable access to health care. Therefore, special attention needs to be paid to equity of access in health services, independent of differences in economic inequality and national wealth.

Keywords : Aged; aged, 80 and over; health services for the aged; health services accessibility; socioeconomic factors; health policy; Latin America.

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