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issn:1475-92.6
1.  Understanding HIV care delays in the US South and the role of the social-level in HIV care engagement/retention: a qualitative study 
Introduction
In a significant geographical shift in the distribution of HIV infection, the US South - comprising 17 states - now has the greatest number of adults and adolescents with HIV (PLHIV) in the nation. More than 60% of PLHIV are not in HIV care in Alabama and Mississippi, contrasted with a national figure of 25%. Poorer HIV outcomes raise concerns about HIV-related inequities for southern PLHIV, which warrant further study. This qualitative study sought to understand experiences of low-income PLHIV on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program in engagement and retention in continuous HIV care in two sites in Alabama.
Methods
The study was designed using grounded theory. Semi-structured interviews with 25 PLHIV explored experiences with care linkage, reported factors and behaviors affecting engagement/retention in continuous HIV care, including socio-economic factors. To triangulate sources, 25 additional interviews were conducted with health and social service providers from the same clinics and AIDS Service Organizations where clients obtained services. Across the narratives, we used the HIV care continuum to map where care delays and drop out occurred. Using open coding, constant comparison and iterative data collection and analysis, we constructed a conceptual model illustrating how participants described their path to HIV care engagement and retention.
Results
Most respondents reported delayed HIV care, describing concentric factors: psychological distress, fear, lack of information, substance use, incarceration, lack of food, transport and housing. Stark health system drop out occurred immediately after receipt of HIV test results, with ART initiation generally occurring when individuals became ill. Findings highlight these enablers to care: Alabama's 'social infrastructure'; 'twinning' medical with social services, 'social enablers' who actively link PLHIV to care; and 'enabling spaces' that break down PLHIV isolation, facilitating HIV care linkage/retention.
Conclusions
Ryan White-funded programs, together with housing, food and psychological support were pre-conditions for participants' entry and retention in HIV care. The path to achieving continuous HIV care for individuals at risk of lack of entry or delayed HIV care requires robust social-level responses, like in Alabama, that address physical and mental health of clients and directly engage the particular social and economic contexts and vulnerabilities of southern PLHIV.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-28
PMCID: PMC3983673  PMID: 24708752
2.  Determinants of health insurance ownership among women in Kenya: evidence from the 2008–09 Kenya demographic and health survey 
Background
The Government of Kenya is making plans to implement a social health insurance program by transforming the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) into a universal health coverage program. The objective of this study was to examine the determinants associated with health insurance ownership among women in Kenya.
Methods
Data came from the 2008–09 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, a nationally representative survey. The sample comprised 8,435 women aged 15–49 years. Descriptive statistics and multivariable logistic regression analysis were used to describe the characteristics of the sample and to identify factors associated with health insurance ownership.
Results
Being employed in the formal sector, being married, exposure to the mass media, having secondary education or higher, residing in households in the middle or rich wealth index categories and residing in a female-headed household were associated with having health insurance. However, region of residence was associated with a lower likelihood of having insurance coverage. Women residing in Central (OR = 0.4; p < 0.01) and North Eastern (OR = 0.1; p < 0.5) provinces were less likely to be insured compared to their counterparts in Nairobi province.
Conclusions
As the Kenyan government transforms the NHIF into a universal health program, it is important to implement a program that will increase equity and access to health care services among the poor and vulnerable groups.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-27
PMCID: PMC3973618  PMID: 24678655
Social health insurance; National Hospital Insurance Fund; Women; Kenya
3.  Mental health inequalities in Slovenian 15-year-old adolescents explained by personal social position and family socioeconomic status 
Introduction
Mental health inequalities are an increasingly important global problem. This study examined the association between mental health status and certain socioeconomic indicators (personal social position and the socioeconomic status of the family) in Slovenian 15-year-old adolescents.
Methods
Data originate from the WHO-Collaborative cross-national ‘Health Behavior in School-aged Children’ study conducted in Slovenia in 2010 (1,815 secondary school pupils, aged 15). Mental health status was measured by: KIDSCREEN-10, the Strength and Difficulties questionnaire (SDQ), a life satisfaction scale, and one question about feelings of depression. Socioeconomic position was measured by the socioeconomic status of the family (Family Affluence Scale, perceived material welfare, family type, occupational status of parents) and personal social position (number of friends and the type of school). Logistic regression and a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) were performed.
Results
Girls had 2.5-times higher odds of suffering feelings of depression (p < 0.001), 1.5-times higher odds of low life satisfaction (p = 0.008), and a greater chance of a lower quality of life and a higher SDQ score than boys (p = 0.001). The adolescents who perceived their family’s material welfare as worse had 4-times higher odds (p < 0.001) of a low life satisfaction, a greater chance of a low quality of life, and a higher SDQ score than those who perceived it as better (p < 0.001). Adolescents with no friends had lower KIDSCREEN-10 and higher SDQ scores than those who had more than three friends.
Conclusions
Despite the fact that Slovenia is among the EU members with the lowest rates of social inequalities, it was found that adolescents with a lower socioeconomic position have poorer mental health than those with a higher socioeconomic position. Because of the financial crisis, we can expect an increase in social inequalities and a greater impact on adolescents’ mental health status in Slovenia in the future.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-26
PMCID: PMC3976171  PMID: 24673838
Slovenia; Socioeconomic position; Adolescents; Mental health; Inequalities
4.  Psychosomatic symptoms and low psychological well-being in relation to employment status: the influence of social capital in a large cross-sectional study in Sweden 
Background
Unemployment is associated with adverse effects on health. Social capital has been suggested as a promoter of health via several causal pathways that are associated with the known health risk factors of being unemployed. This cross-sectional study investigated possible additive- and interaction effects of unemployment and five different measures of social capital in relation to psychosomatic symptoms and low psychological well-being.
Methods
A random population sample of 20,538 individuals aged 18–85 years from five counties in Sweden completed a postal survey questionnaire including questions of employment status, psychosomatic symptoms, psychological well-being (General Health Questionnaire-12) and social capital.
Results
Psychosomatic symptoms and reduced psychological well-being were more frequent among unemployed individuals compared with individuals who were employed. Moreover, low social capital and unemployment had additive effects on ill-health. Unemployed individuals with low social capital—specifically with low tangible social support—had increased ill-health compared with unemployed individuals with high social capital. Moreover, to have low social capital within several different areas magnified the negative effects on health. However, no significant interaction effects were found suggesting no moderating effect of social capital in this regard.
Conclusions
Elements of social capital, particularly social support, might be important health-protective factors among individuals who are unemployed.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-22
PMCID: PMC3973887  PMID: 24593256
Employment; Public health; Self-rated health; Social capital; Unemployment
5.  Community-based health insurance programmes and the national health insurance scheme of Nigeria: challenges to uptake and integration 
Background
Nigeria has included a regulated community-based health insurance (CBHI) model within its National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Uptake to date has been disappointing, however. The aim of this study is to review the present status of CBHI in SSA in general to highlight the issues that affect its successful integration within the NHIS of Nigeria and more widely in developing countries.
Methods
A literature survey using PubMed and EconLit was carried out to identify and review studies that report factors affecting implementation of CBHI in SSA with a focus on Nigeria.
Results
CBHI schemes with a variety of designs have been introduced across SSA but with generally disappointing results so far. Two exceptions are Ghana and Rwanda, both of which have introduced schemes with effective government control and support coupled with intensive implementation programmes. Poor support for CBHI is repeatedly linked elsewhere with failure to engage and account for the ‘real world’ needs of beneficiaries, lack of clear legislative and regulatory frameworks, inadequate financial support, and unrealistic enrolment requirements. Nigeria’s CBHI-type schemes for the informal sectors of its NHIS have been set up under an appropriate legislative framework, but work is needed to eliminate regressive financing, to involve scheme members in the setting up and management of programmes, to inform and educate more effectively, to eliminate lack of confidence in the schemes, and to address inequity in provision. Targeted subsidies should also be considered.
Conclusions
Disappointing uptake of CBHI-type NHIS elements in Nigeria can be addressed through closer integration of informal and formal programmes under the NHIS umbrella, with increasing involvement of beneficiaries in scheme design and management, improved communication and education, and targeted financial assistance.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-20
PMCID: PMC3941795  PMID: 24559409
Community-Based Health Insurance; CBHI; Healthcare; National Health Insurance Scheme; NHIS; Sub-Saharan Africa; Nigeria
6.  Long-term survival among older patients with myocardial infarction differs by educational level: results from the MONICA/KORA myocardial infarction registry 
Background
Socioeconomic disparities in survival after acute myocardial infarction (AMI) have been found in many countries. However, population-based results from Germany are lacking so far. Thus, the objective of this study was to examine the association between educational status and long-term mortality in a population-based sample of people with AMI.
Methods
The sample consisted of 2,575 men and 844 women, aged 28–74 years, hospitalized with a first-time AMI between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2008, recruited from a population-based AMI registry. Patients were followed up until December 2011. Data on education, risk factors and co-morbidities were collected by individual interviews; data on clinical characteristics and AMI treatment by chart review. Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess the relationship between educational status and long-term mortality.
Results
During follow-up, 19.1% of the patients with poor education died compared with 13.1% with higher education. After adjustment for covariates, no effect of education on mortality was found for the total sample and for patients aged below 65 years. In older people, however, low education level was significantly associated with increased mortality (hazard ratio (HR) 1.44, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05–1.98, p = 0.023). Stratified analyses showed that women older than 64 years with poor education were significantly more likely to die than women in the same age group with higher education (HR 1.57, 95% CI 1.02–2.41, p = 0.039).
Conclusions
Elderly, poorly educated patients with AMI, and particularly women, have poorer long-term survival than their better educated peers. Further research is required to illuminate the reasons for this finding.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-19
PMCID: PMC3940020  PMID: 24552463
Socioeconomic status; Myocardial infarction; Mortality; Germany
7.  Socioeconomic inequalities in HIV/AIDS prevalence in sub-Saharan African countries: evidence from the Demographic Health Surveys 
Introduction
Extant studies universally document a positive gradient between socioeconomic status (SES) and health. A notable exception is the apparent concentration of HIV/AIDS among wealthier individuals. This paper uses data from the Demographic Health Surveys and AIDS Indicator Surveys to examine socioeconomic inequalities in HIV/AIDS prevalence in 24 sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, the region that accounts for two-thirds of the global HIV/AIDS burden.
Methods
The relative and generalized concentration indices (RC and GC) were used to quantify wealth-based socioeconomic inequalities in HIV/AIDS prevalence for the total adult population (aged 15-49), for men and women, and in urban and rural areas in each country. Further, we decomposed the RC and GC indices to identify the determinants of socioeconomic inequalities in HIV/AIDS prevalence in each country.
Results
Our findings demonstrated that HIV/AIDS was concentrated among higher SES individuals in the majority of SSA countries. Swaziland and Senegal were the only countries in the region where HIV/AIDS was concentrated among individuals living in poorer households. Stratified analyses by gender showed HIV/AIDS was generally concentrated among wealthier men and women. In some countries, including Kenya, Lesotho Uganda, and Zambia, HIV/AIDS was concentrated among the poor in urban areas but among wealthier adults in rural areas. Decomposition analyses indicated that, besides wealth itself (median = 49%, interquartile range [IQR] = 90%), urban residence (median = 54%, IQR = 81%) was the most important factor contributing to the concentration of HIV/AIDS among wealthier participants in SSA countries.
Conclusions
Further work is needed to understand the mechanisms explaining the concentration of HIV/AIDS among wealthier individuals and urban residents in SSA. Higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS could be indicative of better care and survival among wealthier individuals and urban adults, or reflect greater risk behaviour and incidence. Moreover, differential findings across countries suggest that effective intervention efforts for reducing the burden of HIV/AIDS in the SSA should be country specific.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-18
PMCID: PMC3930550  PMID: 24533509
Socioeconomic inequality; Relative and generalized concentration indices; Decomposition analysis; HIV/AIDS; Sub-Saharan Africa
8.  The inequity of the Swiss health care system financing from a federal state perspective 
Introduction
Previous studies have shown that Swiss health-care financing is particularly regressive. However, as it has been emphasized in the 2011 OECD Review of the Swiss Health System, the inter cantonal variations of income-related inequities are still broadly unexplored. The present paper aims to fill this gap by analyzing the differences in the level of equity of health-care system financing across cantons and its evolution over time using household data.
Methods
Following the methodology proposed by Wagstaff et al. (JHE 11:361–387, 1992) we use the Kakwani index as a summary measure of regressivity and we compute it for each canton and for each of the sources that have a role in financing the health care system. We graphed concentration curves and performed relative dominance tests, which utilize the full distribution of expenditures.
The microdata come from the Swiss Household Income and Expenditure Survey (SHIES) based on a sample of the Swiss population (about 3500 households per year), for the years 1998 - 2005.
Results
The empirical evidence confirms that the health-care financing in Switzerland has remained regressive since the major reform of 1996 and shows that the variations in equity across cantons are quite significant: the difference between the most and the least regressive canton is about the same as between two extremely different financing systems like the US and Sweden. There is no evidence, instead, of a clear evolution over time of regressivity.
Conclusions
The significant variation in equity across cantons can be explained by fiscal federalism and the related autonomy in the design of tax and social policies. In particular, the results highlight that earmarked subsidies, the policy adopted to smooth the regressivity of the premiums, appear to be not enough; in the practice of federal states the combination of allowances with mandatory community-rated health insurance premiums might lead to a modest outcome in terms of equity.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-17
PMCID: PMC3926944  PMID: 24524216
Switzerland; Equity; Health care system financing; Fiscal federalism
9.  The role of communication inequality in mediating the impacts of socioecological and socioeconomic disparities on HIV/AIDS knowledge and risk perception 
Introduction
Although the link between social factors and health-related outcomes has long been widely acknowledged, the mechanisms characterizing this link are relatively less known and remain a subject of continued investigation across disciplines. In this study, drawing on the structural influence model of health communication, the hypothesis that differences in concern about and information needs on HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS-related media use, and perceived salience of HIV/AIDS-related information, characterized as communication inequality, can at least partially mediate the impacts of socioecological (urban vs. rural) and socioeconomic (education) disparities on inequalities in HIV/AIDS knowledge and risk perception was tested.
Methods
Data were collected from a random sample of 986 urban and rural respondents in northwest Ethiopia. Structural equation modeling, using the maximum likelihood method, was used to test the mediation models.
Results
The models showed an adequate fit of the data and hence supported the hypothesis that communication inequality can at least partially explain the causal mechanism linking socioeconomic and socioecological factors with HIV/AIDS knowledge and risk perception. Both urbanity versus rurality and education were found to have significant mediated effects on HIV/AIDS knowledge (urbanity vs. rurality: β = 0.28, p = .001; education: β = 0.08, p = .001) and HIV/AIDS risk perception (urbanity vs. rurality: β = 0.30, p = .001; education: β = 0.09, p = .001).
Conclusions
It was concluded that communication inequality might form part of the socioecologically and socioeconomically embedded processes that affect HIV/AIDS-related outcomes. The findings suggest that the media and message effects that are related to HIV/AIDS behavior change communication can be viewed from a structural perspective that moves beyond the more reductionist behavioral approaches upon which most present-day HIV/AIDS communication campaigns seem to be based.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-16
PMCID: PMC3923233  PMID: 24512185
Communication inequality; Socioecological factors; Socioeconomic factors; HIV/AIDS
10.  Effect of occupational mobility and health status on life satisfaction of Chinese residents of different occupations: logistic diagonal mobility models analysis of cross-sectional data on eight Chinese provinces 
Background
Life satisfaction research in China is in development, requiring new perspectives for enrichment. In China, occupational mobility is accompanied by changes in economic liberalization and the emergence of occupational stratification. On the whole, however, occupational mobility has rarely been used as an independent variable. Health status is always used as the observed or dependent variable in studies of the phenomenon and its influencing factors. A research gap still exists for enriching this field.
Methods
The data used in this study were obtained from the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS). The study included nine provinces in China. The survey was conducted from 1989 to 2009.Every survey involved approximately 4400 families or 19,000 individual samples and parts of community data.
Results
First, we built a 5 × 5 social mobility table and calculated life satisfaction of Chinese residents of different occupations in each table. Second, gender, age, marital status, education level, annual income and hukou, health status, occupational mobility were used as independent variables. Lastly, we used logistic diagonal mobility models to analyze the relationship between life satisfaction and the variables. Model 1 was the basic model, which consisted of the standard model and controlled variables and excluded drift variables. Model 2 was the total model, which consisted of all variables of interest in this study. Model 3 was the screening model, which excluded the insignificant drift effect index in Model 2.
Conclusion
From the perspective of the analysis of controlled variables, health conditions, direction, and distance of occupational mobility significantly affected life satisfaction of Chinese residents of different occupations. (1) From the perspective of health status, respondents who have not been sick or injured had better life satisfaction than those who had been sick or injured. (2) From the perspective of occupational mobility direction, the coefficients of occupational mobility in the models are less than 0, which means that upward mobility negatively affects life satisfaction. (3) From the perspective of distance, when analyzing mobility distance in Models 2 and 3, a greater distance indicates better life satisfaction.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-15
PMCID: PMC3922249  PMID: 24506976
Occupational mobility; Life satisfaction; Health status; Chinese residents of different occupations; Logistic DMMs
11.  Socioeconomic inequalities in smoking in low and mid income countries: positive gradients among women? 
Background
In Southern Europe, smoking among older women was more prevalent among the high educated than the lower educated, we call this a positive gradient. This is dominant in the early stages of the smoking epidemic model, later replaced by a negative gradient. The aim of this study is to assess if a positive gradient in smoking can also be observed in low and middle income countries in other regions of the world.
Methods
We used data of the World Health Survey from 49 countries and a total of 233,917 respondents. Multilevel logistic regression was used to model associations between individual level smoking and both individual level and country level determinants. We stratified results by education, occupation, sex and generation (younger vs. older than 45). Countries were grouped based on GDP and region.
Results
In Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, we observed a positive gradient in smoking among older women and a negative gradient among younger women. In Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America no clear gradient was observed: inequalities were relatively small. In South-East Asia and East Asia a strong negative gradient was observed. Among men, no positive gradients were observed, and like women the strongest negative gradients were seen in South-East Asia and East Asia.
Conclusions
A positive socio-economic gradient in smoking was found among older women in two regions, but not among younger women. But contrary to predictions derived from the smoking epidemic model, from a worldwide perspective the positive gradients are the exception rather than the rule.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-14
PMCID: PMC3922442  PMID: 24502335
Smoking; Socio-economic status; Women; Inequalities; Smoking epidemic; Global; World health survey
12.  Egalitarianism and altruism in health: some evidence of their relationship 
Background
Egalitarianism and altruism are two ways in which people may have attitudes that go beyond the narrowly defined selfish preferences. The theoretical constructs of egalitarianism and altruism are different from each other, yet there may be connections between the two. This paper explores the empirical relationship between egalitarianism and altruism, in the context of health.
Methods
We define altruism as individual behaviour that aims to benefit another individual in need; and egalitarianism as a characteristic of a social welfare function, or a meta-level preference. Furthermore, we specify a model that explains the propensity of an individual to be egalitarian in terms of altruism and other background characteristics. Individuals who prefer a hypothetical policy that reduces socioeconomic inequalities in health outcomes over another that does not are regarded ‘egalitarian’ in the health domain. On the other hand, ‘altruism’ in the health context is captured by whether or not the same respondents are (or have been) regular blood donors, provided they are medically able to donate. Probit models are specified to estimate the relationship between egalitarianism and altruism, thus defined. A representative sample of the Spanish population was interviewed for the purpose (n = 417 valid cases).
Results
Overall, 75% of respondents are found to be egalitarians, whilst 35% are found to be altruists. We find that, once controlled for background characteristics, there is a statistically significant empirical relationship between egalitarianism and altruism in the health context. On average, the probability of an altruist individual supporting egalitarianism is 10% higher than for a non-altruist person. Regarding the other control variables, those living in high per capita income regions have a lower propensity and those who are politically left wing have a higher propensity to be an egalitarian. We do not find evidence of a relationship between egalitarianism and age, socioeconomic status or religious practices.
Conclusion
Altruist individuals have a higher probability to be egalitarians than would be expected from their observed background characteristics.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-13
PMCID: PMC3922026  PMID: 24502318
Egalitarianism; Altruism; Socioeconomic health inequalities; Blood donation
13.  Personal and social determinants sustaining smoking practices in rural China: a qualitative study 
Introduction
Tobacco use in China is disproportionally distributed among rural and urban populations with rural people smoking more. While there is a wealth of evidence on the association between tobacco use among rural people and their lower socio-economic status (SES), how social structural factors contribute to rural smoking is not well understood. Guided by a socio-ecological model, the objective of this study was to explore the personal and social determinants that play a key role in sustaining smoking practices among Chinese rural people.
Methods
An ethnographic study was conducted in a rural area of Central Jiangsu, China. Participants (n = 29) were recruited from families where there was at least one smoking resident and there were young children. In-depth interviews and unstructured observations were used to collect data, which were then analyzed with an interpretive lens.
Results
Although individuals had limited knowledge about the risks of smoking and lack of motivation to quit, social factors were in effect the main barriers to quitting smoking. Cigarette exchange and cigarette gifting permeated every aspect of rural family life, from economic activities to leisure pastimes, in family and wider social interactions. Traditional familism and collectivism interplayed with the pro-smoking environment and supported rural people’s smoking practices at the community level. Living in the rural area was also a barrier to quitting smoking because of the lack of information on smoking cessation and the influence of courtyard-based leisure activities that facilitated smoking.
Conclusion
Development of comprehensive smoking cessation interventions in rural China needs to extend beyond an individual level to take into account the social determinants influencing smoking practices.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-12
PMCID: PMC3917907  PMID: 24484610
Smoking; Rural China; Social ecological model; Qualitative study
14.  Inequities in access to health care in different health systems: a study in municipalities of central Colombia and north-eastern Brazil 
Introduction
Health system reforms are undertaken with the aim of improving equity of access to health care. Their impact is generally analyzed based on health care utilization, without distinguishing between levels of care. This study aims to analyze inequities in access to the continuum of care in municipalities of Brazil and Colombia.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted based on a survey of a multistage probability sample of people who had had at least one health problem in the prior three months (2,163 in Colombia and 2,167 in Brazil). The outcome variables were dichotomous variables on the utilization of curative and preventive services. The main independent variables were income, being the holder of a private health plan and, in Colombia, type of insurance scheme of the General System of Social Security in Health (SGSSS). For each country, the prevalence of the outcome variables was calculated overall and stratified by levels of per capita income, SGSSS insurance schemes and private health plan. Prevalence ratios were computed by means of Poisson regression models with robust variance, controlling for health care need.
Results
There are inequities in favor of individuals of a higher socioeconomic status: in Colombia, in the three different care levels (primary, outpatient secondary and emergency care) and preventive activities; and in Brazil, in the use of outpatient secondary care services and preventive activities, whilst lower-income individuals make greater use of the primary care services. In both countries, inequity in the use of outpatient secondary care is more pronounced than in the other care levels. Income in both countries, insurance scheme enrollment in Colombia and holding a private health plan in Brazil all contribute to the presence of inequities in utilization.
Conclusions
Twenty years after the introduction of reforms implemented to improve equity in access to health care, inequities, defined in terms of unequal use for equal need, are still present in both countries. The design of the health systems appears to determine access to the health services: two insurance schemes in Colombia with different benefits packages and a segmented system in Brazil, with a significant private component.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-10
PMCID: PMC3917695  PMID: 24479581
Access to health care; Inequities; Primary health care; Secondary care; Emergency care; Preventive health services; Colombia; Brazil
15.  “No one says ‘No’ to money” – a mixed methods approach for evaluating conditional cash transfer schemes to improve girl children’s status in Haryana, India 
Introduction
Haryana was the first state in India to launch a conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme in 1994. Initially it targeted all disadvantaged girls but was revised in 2005 to restrict it to second girl children of all groups. The benefit which accrued at girl attaining 18 years and subject to conditionalities of being fully immunized, studying till class 10 and remaining unmarried, was increased from about US$ 500 to US$ 2000. Using a mixed methods approach, we evaluated the implementation and possible impact of these two schemes.
Methods
A survey was conducted among 200 randomly selected respondents of Ballabgarh Block in Haryana to assess their perceptions of girl children and related schemes. A cohort of births during this period was assembled from population database of 28 villages in this block and changes in sex ratio at birth and in immunization coverage at one year of age among boys and girls was measured. Education levels and mean age at marriage of daughters were compared with daughters-in-law from outside Haryana. In-depth interviews were conducted among district level implementers of these schemes to assess their perceptions of programs’ implementation and impact. These were analyzed using a thematic approach.
Results
The perceptions of girls as a liability and poor (9% to 15%) awareness of the schemes was noted. The cohort analysis showed that while there has been an improvement in the indicators studied, these were similar to those seen among the control groups. Qualitative analysis identified a “conspiracy of silence” - an underplaying of the pervasiveness of the problem coupled with a passive implementation of the program and a clash between political culture of giving subsidies and a bureaucratic approach that imposed many conditionalities and documentary needs for availing of benefits.
Conclusion
The apparent lack of impact on the societal mindset calls for a revision in the current approach of addressing a social issue by a purely conditional cash transfer program.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-11
PMCID: PMC3922091  PMID: 24484583
16.  Gender differences in the use of health care in China: cross-sectional analysis 
Introduction
Differences between women and men in education, employment, political and economic empowerment have been well-documented in China due to the long traditional culture that male is superior to female. This study is to explore whether the similar gender differences exist in the use of health care by analyzing hospital admission, duration of hospitalization and medical expense of both genders in a Chinese hospital.
Methods
This cross-sectional study evaluated the gender differences in clinical and epidemiologic characteristics of patients who were admitted for any reason to hospital in Zhuhai Special Economic Zone, Southern China, from January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2009. Chi-square test was used to calculate differences between proportions and the t test was used to test differences between means.
Results
A total of 156,887 patients were recruited in the analysis, with a male/female ratio of 1.1:1.0. The average age and the duration of hospitalization were significantly greater among men (p < 0.05). A larger proportion of hospitalized female underwent surgery compared to male (p < 0.05). The total medical expense per inpatient indicated important differences between genders, with higher expenditures observed among men (p < 0.05). Furthermore, gender differences were observed in length of hospitalization and medical expense for five common conditions respectively and most differences favoring men were significant (p < 0.05) while differences favoring women were not significant (p > 0.05). Among all the self-paid patients, men were also superior in all investigating variables compared with women.
Conclusions
Gender differences in the use of health care do occur in China. Despite of demographic factors, the differences between female and male can be in part explained by social power relations. China should increase attention to gender and equity in health.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-8
PMCID: PMC3917614  PMID: 24476343
Gender differences; Inequity; Hospitalization; Use of health care; China
17.  An observational study of socioeconomic and clinical gradients among diabetes patients hospitalized for avoidable causes: evidence of underlying health disparities in China? 
Introduction
Diabetes is an ambulatory care sensitive condition that can generally be managed in outpatient settings with little or no need for inpatient care. As a preliminary step to investigate whether health disparities can be detected in the inpatient setting in China, we study how diabetic patients hospitalized without prior primary care contact or with greater severity of illness differ from other diabetic inpatients along socioeconomic and clinical dimensions.
Methods
We conduct an observational study using three years of clinical data for more than 1,800 adult patients with diabetes at two tertiary hospitals in East China. Univariate analysis and probit regression are used to characterize the differences in socioeconomic and clinical factors between patients hospitalized for diabetes with no prior primary care contact and those hospitalized with previous treatment experience. Secondarily, we use ordinary least squares regression to estimate the socioeconomic and clinical differences associated with poor serum glucose control at admission.
Results
We find that compared with patients hospitalized after prior treatment experience, inpatients with no previous primary care contact for diabetes have worse clinical laboratory values, are more likely to be young and male, to have lower education attainment, and to have poorer blood sugar control. Insurance, urban residence, and previous use of diabetic medication are in turn negatively correlated with HbA1c levels upon admission.
Conclusion
Among hospitalized diabetic patients, socioeconomic factors such as lower education attainment, rural residence and lack of full insurance are associated with avoidable hospitalizations or worse indicators of health. Although we cannot definitively rule out selection bias, these findings are consistent with health disparities observable even at the inpatient level. Future studies should study the underlying mechanism by which traditionally vulnerable groups are more likely to be hospitalized for avoidable causes and with greater severity of illness.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-9
PMCID: PMC3917615  PMID: 24479633
Diabetes; China; Equity; Social gradient; Preventable hospitalizations; Ambulatory care sensitive conditions
18.  Cultural barriers to effective communication between Indigenous communities and health care providers in Northern Argentina: an anthropological contribution to Chagas disease prevention and control 
Introduction
Ninety percent of the aboriginal communities of Argentina are located in areas of endemic vectorial transmission of Chagas disease. Control activities in these communities have not been effective. The goal of this research was to explore the role played by beliefs, habits, and practices of Pilaga and Wichi indigenous communities in their interaction with the local health system in the province of Formosa. This article contributes to the understanding of the cultural barriers that affect the communication process between indigenous peoples and their health care providers.
Methods
Twenty-nine open ended interviews were carried out with members of four indigenous communities (Pilaga and Wichi) located in central Formosa. These interviews were used to describe and compare these communities’ approach to health and disease as they pertain to Chagas as well as their perceptions of Western medicine and its incarnation in local health practice.
Results
Five key findings are presented: 1) members of these communities tend to see disease as caused by other people or by the person’s violation of taboos instead of as a biological process; 2) while the Pilaga are more inclined to accept Western medicine, the Wichi often favour the indigenous approach to health care over the Western approach; 3) members of these communities do not associate the vector with the transmission of the disease and they have little awareness of the need for vector control activities; 4) indigenous individuals who undergo diagnostic tests and accept treatment often do so without full information and knowledge; 5) the clinical encounter is rife with conflict between the expectations of health care providers and those of members of these communities.
Conclusion
Our analysis suggests that there is a need to consider the role of the cultural patterning of health and disease when developing interventions to prevent and control Chagas disease among indigenous communities in Northern Argentina. This is especially important when communicating with these communities about prevention and control. These research findings might also be of value to national and provincial agencies in charge of decreasing the rates of Chagas disease among indigenous populations.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-6
PMCID: PMC3909457  PMID: 24476151
Aboriginal health; Chagas disease; Wichi; Pilaga; Argentina; Communication; Local health system
19.  Socioeconomic inequalities in the non-use of dental care in Europe 
Introduction
Oral health is an important component of people’s general health status. Many studies have shown that socioeconomic status is an important determinant of access to health services. In the present study, we explored the inequality and socioeconomic factors associated with people’s non-use of dental care across Europe.
Methods
We obtained data from the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions survey conducted by Eurostat in 2007. These cross-sectional data were collected from people aged 16 years and older in 24 European countries, except those living in long-term care facilities. The variable of interest was the prevalence of non-use of dental care while needed. We used the direct method of standardisation by age and sex to eliminate confounders in the data. Socioeconomic inequalities in the non-use of dental care were measured through differences in prevalence, the relative concentration index (RCI), and the relative index of inequality (RII). We compared the results among countries and conducted standard and multilevel logistic regression analyses to examine the socioeconomic factors associated with the non-use of dental care while needed.
Results
The results revealed significant socio-economic inequalities in the non-use of dental care across Europe, the magnitudes of which depended on the measure of inequality used. For example, inequalities in the prevalence of non-use among education levels according to the RCI ranged from 0.005 (in the United Kingdom) to −0.271 (Denmark) for men and from −0.009 (Poland) to 0.176 (Spain) for women, whereas the RII results ranged from 1.21 (Poland) to 11.50 (Slovakia) for men and from 1.62 (Poland) to 4.70 (Belgium) for women. Furthermore, the level-2 variance (random effects) was significantly different from zero, indicating the presence of heterogeneity in the probability of the non-use of needed dental care at the country level.
Conclusion
Overall, our study revealed considerable socioeconomic inequalities in the non-use of dental care at both the individual (intra-country) and collective (inter-country) levels. Therefore, to be most effective, policies to reduce this social inequality across Europe should address both levels.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-7
PMCID: PMC3909506  PMID: 24476233
Oral health; Dental care; Non-use of dental care; Socioeconomic inequality; Socioeconomic determinants; Human development index; Density of dentists; Multilevel analysis; Europe
20.  Are social security policies for Chinese landless farmers really effective on health in the process of Chinese rapid urbanization? a study on the effect of social security policies for Chinese landless farmers on their health-related quality of life 
Background
The continuing urbanization in China has resulted in a loss of land and rights among farmers. The social security of landless farmers has attracted considerable research attention. However, only few studies measure the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of landless farmers by employing scientific standardized scales. By using five-dimensional European quality of life (EQ-5D) scales, this study measures the HRQOL of landless farmers from a new perspective and examines how the social security policies affect their HRQOL.
Methods
This study is based on a 2013 household survey that has been conducted among 1,500 landless famers who are residing in six resettlement areas in three cities within the Yangtze River Delta region, namely, Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Yangzhou. This study adopts EQ-5D scales to measure the HRQOL of these farmers. More than 50% of the respondents are in poor or non-serious health conditions, and over 50% are not satisfied with their current social security policies. The health conditions and social security policies are analyzed by multinomial regression analysis and the relationship between these two factors are analyzed via structural equation modeling (SEM).
Results
First, the descriptive statistical analysis shows that more than 50% of the respondents are in poor or non-serious health conditions, and that the largest proportion of these farmers are suffering from anxiety or depression, which is the most serious of the five dimensions. Second, multinomial regression analysis shows that the satisfaction of landless farmers with their social security policies improves their living conditions, particularly in their capacity for self-care, in their ability to perform daily activities, and in the reduction of pain, anxiety, and depression. Third, SEM model analysis shows that the satisfaction of landless farmers with their social security policies positively influences their HRQOL. Among the five dimensions of EQ-5D, daily activities produce the greatest influence on the HRQOL of landless farmers. As regards social security policies, the land acquisition compensation policy and the employment security policy produce the greatest and weakest influences on the HRQOL of landless farmers, respectively.
Conclusions
The rapid urbanization in China has deprived many farmers of their lands and of the benefits of urbanization. These farmers are often in a disadvantaged position in the land acquisition process. Statistic analysis in this paper shows that the satisfaction of landless farmers with their social security policies positively influences their HRQOL. The implementation and improvement of social security policies is very important for the long-term and sustainable development of these landless farmers.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-5
PMCID: PMC3896694  PMID: 24433258
Chinese landless farmers; Social security policy; HRQOL EQ-5D; SEM; Multinomial regression
21.  Changes in the magnitude of social inequality in the uptake of cervical cancer screening in Taiwan, a country implementing a population-based organized screening program 
Introduction
We sought to examine changes in the magnitude of social inequality in the uptake of cervical cancer screening between 2001 and 2009 in Taiwan.
Methods
We used data from the 2001 and 2009 Taiwan National Health Interview Surveys to calculate the absolute (slope of index of inequality, SII) and relative (relative index of inequality, RII) summary measures of social inequality in the uptake of Pap smear tests to indicate the magnitude of social inequality.
Results
The prevalence of having had a Pap smear during the previous 3 years increased in each age and socioeconomic group from 2001 to 2009. The SII and RII by urbanization and education level decreased significantly, while the SII and RII by income level increased significantly between the two study years. The largest increase in inequality of prevalence from 2001 to 2009 was between women living in suburban and rural areas with highest income level and women live in metropolitan areas with lowest income level.
Conclusions
The changes in magnitude of social inequality in the uptake of cervical cancer screening differed by indicators of socioeconomic position. Further studies are needed to explore the mechanisms that result in social inequality by different indicators of socioeconomic position.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-4
PMCID: PMC3896803  PMID: 24405587
Mass screening; National Health Interview Survey; Socio-economic factors; Uterine cervical neoplasm
22.  Inequalities in out-of-pocket payments for health care services among elderly Germans – results of a population-based cross-sectional study 
Introduction
In order to limit rising publicly-financed health expenditure, out-of-pocket payments for health care services (OOPP) have been raised in many industrialized countries. However, higher health-related OOPP may burden social subgroups unequally. In Germany, inequalities in OOPP have rarely been analyzed. The aim of this study was to examine OOPP of the German elderly population in the different sectors of the health care system. Socio-economic and morbidity-related determinants of inequalities in OOPP were analyzed.
Methods
This cross-sectional analysis used data of N = 3,124 subjects aged 57 to 84 years from a population-based prospective cohort study (ESTHER study) collected in the Saarland, Germany, from 2008 to 2010. Subjects passed a geriatric assessment, including a questionnaire for health care utilization and OOPP covering a period of three months in the following sectors: inpatient care, outpatient physician and non-physician services, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, dental prostheses and nursing care. Determinants of OOPP were analyzed by a two-part model. The financial burden of OOPP for certain social subgroups (measured by the OOPP-income-ratio) was investigated by a generalized linear model for the binomial family.
Results
Mean OOPP during three months amounted to €119, with 34% for medical supplies, 22% for dental prostheses, 21% for pharmaceuticals, 17% for outpatient physician and non-physician services, 5% for inpatient care and 1% for nursing care. The two-part model showed a significant positive association between income (square root equivalence scale) and total OOPP. Increasing morbidity was associated with significantly higher total OOPP, and in particular with higher OOPP for pharmaceuticals. Total OOPP amounted to about 3% of disposable income. The generalized linear model for the binomial family showed a significantly lower financial burden for the wealthiest quintile as compared to the poorest one.
Conclusions
This is the first study providing evidence of inequalities in OOPP in the German elderly population. Socio-economic and morbidity-related inequalities in OOPP and the resulting financial burden could be identified. The results of this study may contribute to the discussion about the mechanisms causing the observed inequalities and can thus help decision makers to consider them when adapting future regulations on OOPP.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-3
PMCID: PMC3893415  PMID: 24397544
Out-of-pocket payments; Inequalities; Germany; Elderly
23.  Community-based health care for indigenous women in Mexico: a qualitative evaluation 
Introduction
Indigenous women in Mexico represent a vulnerable population in which three kinds of discrimination converge (ethnicity, gender and class), having direct repercussions on health status. The discrimination and inequity in health care settings brought this population to the fore as a priority group for institutional action. The objective of this study was to evaluate the processes and performance of the “Casa de la Mujer Indígena”, a community based project for culturally and linguistically appropriate service delivery for indigenous women. The evaluation summarizes perspectives from diverse stakeholders involved in the implementation of the model, including users, local authorities, and institutional representatives.
Methods
The study covered five Casas implementation sites located in four Mexican states. A qualitative process evaluation focused on systematically analyzing the Casas project processes and performance was conducted using archival information and semi-structured interviews. Sixty-two interviews were conducted, and grounded theory approach was applied for data analysis.
Results
Few similarities were observed between the proposed model of service delivery and its implementation in diverse locations, signaling discordant operating processes. Evidence gathered from Casas personnel highlighted their ability to detect obstetric emergencies and domestic violence cases, as well as contribute to the empowerment of women in the indigenous communities served by the project. These themes directly translated to increases in the reporting of abuse and referrals for obstetric emergencies.
Conclusions
The model’s cultural and linguistic competency, and contributions to increased referrals for obstetric emergencies and abuse are notable successes. The flexibility and community-based nature of the model has allowed it to be adapted to the particularities of diverse indigenous contexts. Local, culturally appropriate implementation has been facilitated by the fact that the Casas have been implemented with local leadership and local women have taken ownership. Users express overall satisfaction with service delivery, while providing constructive feedback for the improvement of existing Casas, as well as more cost-effective implementation of the model in new sites. Integration of user’s input obtained from this process evaluation into future planning will undoubtedly increase buy-in. The Casas model is pertinent and viable to other contexts where indigenous women experience disparities in care.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-2
PMCID: PMC3893537  PMID: 24393517
Indigenous women; Health disparities; Cultural competency; Qualitative evaluation
24.  Literacy and healthcare-seeking among women with low educational attainment: analysis of cross-sectional data from the 2011 Nepal demographic and health survey 
Introduction
Research suggests that literacy plays a key role in mediating the relationship between formal education and care-seeking among women in developing countries. However, little research has examined literacy’s role independently from formal education. This differentiation is important, as literacy programs and formal schooling entail distinct intervention designs and resources, and may target different groups. To assess the relationship between literacy and healthcare-seeking among Nepali women of low educational attainment, we analyzed data from the 2011 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (DHS).
Methods
From the 2011 Nepal DHS, our sample consisted of 7,020 women who had attained at most a primary school level of education, and a subsample of 4,875 women with no formal schooling whatsoever. We assessed associations between literacy and four healthcare-seeking outcomes: whether women identified “getting permission” as a barrier to accessing care; whether women identified “not wanting to go alone” as a barrier; whether among women who were married/partnered, the woman had some say in making decisions about her own health; and whether among women who experienced symptoms related to sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) in the past year, treatment was sought. We performed simple and multiple logistic regressions, which adjusted for several socio-demographic covariates.
Results
Literacy was associated with some aspects of healthcare-seeking, even after adjusting for socio-demographic covariates. Among women with no more than primary schooling, literate women’s odds of identifying “getting permission” as a barrier to healthcare were 23% less than illiterate women’s odds (p = 0.04). For married/partnered women, odds of having some say in making decisions related to their health were 37% higher (p = 0.002) in literate than illiterate women. Comparing literate to illiterate women in the subsample with no formal schooling, odds of reporting “getting permission” as a barrier were 35% lower (p = 0.01), odds of having a decision-making say were 57% higher (p < 0.001), and odds of having sought care for experiences of STI-related symptoms were 86% higher (p = 0.04).
Conclusions
Further research should be undertaken to determine whether targeted literacy programs for those past normal schooling age lead to improved healthcare-seeking among Nepali women with little or no formal education.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-95
PMCID: PMC3878725  PMID: 24330671
Nepal; Literacy; Women; Agency; Healthcare decision-making; Care-seeking; Healthcare access; Social epidemiology; Social determinants of health
25.  Knowledge brokers, companions, and navigators: a qualitative examination of informal caregivers’ roles in medical tourism 
Introduction
Many studies examining the phenomena of medical tourism have identified health equity issues associated with this global health services practice. However, there is a notable lack of attention in this existing research to the informal care provided by the friends and family members who typically accompany medical tourists abroad. To date, researchers have not examined the care roles filled by informal caregivers travelling with medical tourists. In this article, we fill this gap by examining these informal caregivers and the roles they take on towards supporting medical tourists’ health and wellbeing.
Methods
We conducted 21 interviews with International Patient Coordinators (IPCs) working at medical tourism hospitals across ten countries. IPCs work closely with informal caregivers as providers of non-medical personal assistance, and can therefore offer broad insight on caregiver roles. The interviews were coded and analyzed thematically.
Results
Three roles emerged: knowledge broker, companion, and navigator. As knowledge brokers, caregivers facilitate the transfer of information between the medical tourist and formal health care providers as well as other staff members at medical tourism facilities. The companion role involves providing medical tourists with physical and emotional care. Meanwhile, responsibilities associated with handling documents and coordinating often complex journeys are part of the navigation role.
Conclusions
This is the first study to examine informal caregiving roles in medical tourism. Many of the roles identified are similar to those of conventional informal caregivers while others are specific to the transnational context. We conclude that these roles make informal caregivers an integral part of the larger phenomenon of medical tourism. We further contend that examining the roles taken on by a heretofore-unconsidered medical tourism stakeholder group sheds valuable insight into how this industry operates and that such knowledge is necessary in order to respond to the health equity debates that surround this particular global health services practice.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-94
PMCID: PMC3879033  PMID: 24289231
Informal caregiving; Medical tourism; Global health services; Healthcare providers; Qualitative analysis; Family caregivers

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