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Understanding the Impact of Socioeconomic Status on Health Inequalities in Low and Middle-Income Countries

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Medriva Correspondents
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Understanding the Impact of Socioeconomic Status on Health Inequalities in Low and Middle-Income Countries

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Health inequalities remain a pressing issue in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). These disparities are largely influenced by the socioeconomic status (SES) of individuals and communities. This article aims to shed light on the impact of SES on health inequalities and emphasizes the importance of comprehensive measures to address these disparities.

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The Influence of Socioeconomic Measures on Health Inequalities

A recent study evaluated the impact of different measures of socioeconomic status (SES) on the magnitude of wealth-related health inequalities in LMICs. The study compared income, consumption, asset indices, and a hybrid income proxy as measures of SES. The markers for health inequalities included child deaths, stunting, and underweight conditions.

The findings suggest that asset indices and the hybrid income proxy result in the largest magnitudes of health inequalities. There was no significant difference between relative and absolute inequality measures, but the hybrid predicted income measure behaved more similarly to asset indices than household income. The study emphasizes the need for further research on the impact of SES measures on health inequalities and highlights the lack of systematic comparison in the existing literature.

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The Direct and Indirect Influence of SES on Health Outcomes

SES does not only influence health outcomes directly but also indirectly by shaping individuals' lifestyles and health practices. A qualitative study involving interviews with 55 Americans from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds revealed how socioeconomic position shapes respondents' health lifestyles. The relationship between SES and health outcomes was evident, reinforcing the need to consider SES in health interventions.

Socioeconomic Status and Cardiovascular Health

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Interestingly, SES also plays a significant role in cardiovascular health. One study discovered that the association of SES with Life's Essential 8 (LE8) metrics, which include blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, body mass index, physical activity, smoking, sleep, and diet, was of greatest magnitude among non-Hispanic White and Black American women compared to men. Improving socioeconomic status can benefit both men and women of all races and ethnicities, but women of some races and ethnicities may have a greater association of socioeconomic status with cardiovascular health than men.

Health Inequalities in Healthcare Access and Utilization

SES also impacts disparities in healthcare access and utilization. These disparities can further exacerbate health inequalities, making it crucial to address SES in efforts to improve overall public health. A study in Western Iran assessing socioeconomic inequality in using Papanicolaou tests (Pap tests) for detecting cervical cancer found higher test uptake among wealthier groups, especially in urban areas. Factors such as socioeconomic status, education, and age contributed to reducing inequality.

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Lower Socioeconomic Status and Higher Risk of Mortality

Lower socioeconomic status has been associated with a higher risk of mortality. An analysis of data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database found that patients with the lowest SES had a 34% higher risk of mortality compared to those with the highest SES. The results suggest implications for developing interventions to improve access and quality of care for patients from lower SES backgrounds, ultimately reducing disparities in orthopaedic surgery.

In conclusion, SES significantly impacts health inequalities in LMICs. Understanding the various ways in which SES influences health outcomes is crucial to devising effective interventions to reduce health disparities. Improving SES could substantially mitigate health inequalities, emphasizing the need for comprehensive socioeconomic interventions alongside health initiatives.

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