Geographic aspects of poverty and health in Tanzania: does living in a poor area matter?

Type Journal Article - Health Policy and Planning
Title Geographic aspects of poverty and health in Tanzania: does living in a poor area matter?
Volume 21
Issue 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2006
Page numbers 110-122
Previous studies have consistently found an inverse relationship between household-level poverty and health status. However, what is not well understood is whether and how the average economic status at the community level plays a role in the poverty–health relationship. The purpose of this study is to investigate the concentration of poverty at the community level in Tanzania and its association with the availability and quality of primary health care services, the utilization of services, and health outcomes among household categories defined by wealth scores. A principal component method has been applied to rank households separately by urban/rural location using reported levels of asset ownership and living conditions. The household wealth scores were also used to classify communities into three cluster-types based on the proportion of households belonging to the poorest wealth tercile. On average, all the wealth terciles living in low poverty concentration areas were found to have better health outcomes and service utilization rates than their counterparts living in high poverty concentration clusters. Consistent with the finding is that high poverty concentration areas were further away from facilities offering primary health care than low poverty concentration areas. Moreover, the facilities closest to the high poverty concentration areas had fewer doctors, medical equipment and drugs. Among the high poverty concentration clusters, the 10 communities with the best women's body mass index (BMI) measures were found to have access to facilities with a greater availability of equipment and drugs than the 10 communities with the worst BMI measures. Although this study does not directly measure quality, the characteristics that differentiate high poverty concentration clusters from low poverty concentration clusters point to quality as more important than physical access among the study population.

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