Changes in health care inequity in Brazil between 2008 and 2013

Pricila Mullachery, Diana Silver, James Macinko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Brazil has made progress towards a more equitable distribution of health care, but gains may be threatened by economic instability resulting from the 2008 global financial crisis. This study measured predictors of health care utilization and changes in horizontal inequity between 2008 and 2013. Method: Data were from two nationally representative surveys that measured a variety of sociodemographic, health behaviors and health care indicators. We used Poisson regression models to estimate adjusted prevalence ratios and the Horizontal Equity Index (HEI) standardized by health needs to measure inequity in the utilization of doctor and dentist visits, hospitalizations and reporting of a usual source of care (USC) for those 18 and older. To estimate the HEI, we ranked the population from the poorest to the richest using a wealth index. We also decomposed the HEI into its different components and assessed changes from 2008 to 2013. Results: The population proportion with doctor and dentist visits in the past year and a USC increased between 2008 and 2013, while hospitalizations declined. In 2013, pro-rich inequity in doctor visits increased significantly while the distribution of hospitalizations shifted from pro-rich in 2008 to neutral in 2013. Dentist visits were highly pro-rich and USC was slightly pro-rich; the distribution of dentist visits and USC did not change over time. Health need was a strong predictor of health care utilization regardless of the type of coverage (public or private). Education, wealth, and private health plans were associated with the pro-rich orientation of doctor and dentist visits. Private health plans contributed to the pro-rich orientation of all outcomes, while the Family Health Strategy contributed to the pro-poor orientation of all outcomes. Conclusion: The results of this study support the claim that Brazil's population continued to see absolute gains in access to care despite recent economic crises. However, gains in equity have slowed and may even decline if investments are not maintained as the country enters deeper financial and political crises.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 17 2016


  • Brazil
  • Health care inequity
  • Health care utilization
  • Horizontal Equity Index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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