Access to health care in relation to socioeconomic status in the Amazonian area of Peru

Authors: C. Kristiansson (ed); E. Gotuzzo; H. Rodriguez
Publisher: International Journal for Equity in Health, 2009 Good health is recognised by many as being central to individual and national development.

Good health is recognised by many as being central to individual and national development. However, there is often a disconnect between the access and utilisation of health services by the poor. In countries where publicly funded programs are limited and persons are required to utilise insurance schemes or out of pocket payments, people who lack the means to pay for services may be unable to access them.

This paper from the International Journal for Equity in Health, examines the link between the socioeconomic status and the ability to access health services. The authors of this research paper provide empirical data on the impact of limited health services on children from two small urban communities in Peru. The study interviewed the care givers of 1,573 children about how and when they seek health care. The economic status of participants was measured based on personal assets rather than questions about personal wealth. Biological samples were also taken in order to test for illness such as diarrhoea and dysentery.

It was found that those with lower income levels did not access health and pharmaceutical services even in cases of severe illness where consultation with a health professional and medications were required. On the other hand, persons who had the means to pay for services often sought assistance and utilized treatments for minor ailments. The findings of this study highlight the need to implement funding schemes that bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. The authors note that health schemes aimed at financing services should be implemented with caution as these can result in persons being subjected to stigma. This can result in a lack of uptake of programmes that have been designed to meet the needs of persons from lower socioeconomic groups.

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