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      Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health in Older Adults in Brazil and England

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          Objectives. We examined socioeconomic inequalities in health among older adults in England and Brazil.

          Methods. We analyzed nationally representative samples of residents aged 50 years and older in 2008 data from the Brazilian National Household Survey (n = 75 527) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (n = 9589). We estimated prevalence ratios for self-rated health, functional limitations, and reported chronic diseases, by education level and household income tertiles.

          Results. Brazilians reported worse health than did English respondents. Country-specific differences were higher among the poorest, but also affected the wealthiest persons. We observed a strong inverse gradient of similar magnitude across education and household income levels for most health indicators in each country. Prevalence ratios (lowest vs highest education level) of poor self-rated health were 3.24 in Brazil and 3.50 in England; having 2 or more functional limitations, 1.81 in Brazil and 1.96 in England; and having 1 or more diseases, 1.14 in Brazil and 1.36 in England.

          Conclusions. Socioeconomic inequalities in health affect both populations, despite a less pronounced absolute difference in household income and education in Brazil than in England.

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          Most cited references24

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          What is self-rated health and why does it predict mortality? Towards a unified conceptual model.

          The association of self-rated health with mortality is well established but poorly understood. This paper provides new insights into self-rated health that help integrate information from different disciplines, both social and biological, into one unified conceptual framework. It proposes, first, a model describing the health assessment process to show how self-rated health can reflect the states of the human body and mind. Here, an analytic distinction is made between the different types of information on which people base their health assessments and the contextual frameworks in which this information is evaluated and summarized. The model helps us understand why self-ratings of health may be modified by age or culture, but still be a valid measure of health status. Second, based on the proposed model, the paper examines the association of self-rated health with mortality. The key question is, what do people know and how do they know what they know that makes self-rated health such an inclusive and universal predictor of the most absolute biological event, death. The focus is on the social and biological pathways that mediate information from the human organism to individual consciousness, thus incorporating that information into self-ratings of health. A unique source of information is provided by the bodily sensations that are directly available only to the individual him- or herself. According to recent findings in human biology, these sensations may reflect important physiological dysregulations, such as inflammatory processes. Third, the paper discusses the advantages and limitations of self-rated health as a measure of health in research and clinical practice. Future research should investigate both the logics that govern people's reasoning about their health and the physiological processes that underlie bodily feelings and sensations. Self-rated health lies at the cross-roads of culture and biology, therefore a collaborative effort between different disciplines can only improve our understanding of this key measure of health status.
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            The Brazilian health system: history, advances, and challenges.

            Brazil is a country of continental dimensions with widespread regional and social inequalities. In this report, we examine the historical development and components of the Brazilian health system, focusing on the reform process during the past 40 years, including the creation of the Unified Health System. A defining characteristic of the contemporary health sector reform in Brazil is that it was driven by civil society rather than by governments, political parties, or international organisations. The advent of the Unified Health System increased access to health care for a substantial proportion of the Brazilian population, at a time when the system was becoming increasingly privatised. Much is still to be done if universal health care is to be achieved. Over the past 20 years, there have been other advances, including investments in human resources, science and technology, and primary care, and a substantial decentralisation process, widespread social participation, and growing public awareness of a right to health care. If the Brazilian health system is to overcome the challenges with which it is presently faced, strengthened political support is needed so that financing can be restructured and the roles of both the public and private sector can be redefined. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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              Health disadvantage in US adults aged 50 to 74 years: a comparison of the health of rich and poor Americans with that of Europeans.

              We compared the health of older US, English, and other European adults, stratified by wealth. Representative samples of adults aged 50 to 74 years were interviewed in 2004 in 10 European countries (n = 17,481), England (n = 6527), and the United States (n = 9940). We calculated prevalence rates of 6 chronic diseases and functional limitations. American adults reported worse health than did English or European adults. Eighteen percent of Americans reported heart disease, compared with 12% of English and 11% of Europeans. At all wealth levels, Americans were less healthy than were Europeans, but differences were more marked among the poor. Health disparities by wealth were significantly smaller in Europe than in the United States and England. Odds ratios of heart disease in a comparison of the top and bottom wealth tertiles were 1.94 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.69, 2.24) in the United States, 2.13 (95% CI = 1.73, 2.62) in England, and 1.38 (95% CI = 1.23, 1.56) in Europe. Smoking, obesity, physical activity levels, and alcohol consumption explained a fraction of health variations. American adults are less healthy than Europeans at all wealth levels. The poorest Americans experience the greatest disadvantage relative to Europeans.

                Author and article information

                American Journal of Public Health
                Am J Public Health
                American Public Health Association
                August 2012
                August 2012
                : 102
                : 8
                : 1535-1541
                [1 ]M. Fernanda Lima-Costa is with the Instituto René Rachou, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz and the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Cesar De Oliveira and Michael Marmot are with the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, UK. James Macinko is with the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University, New York, NY.
                © 2012


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