Poverty and health sector inequalities

Bull World Health Organ. 2002;80(2):97-105.


Poverty and ill-health are intertwined. Poor countries tend to have worse health outcomes than better-off countries. Within countries, poor people have worse health outcomes than better-off people. This association reflects causality running in both directions: poverty breeds ill-health, and ill-health keeps poor people poor. The evidence on inequalities in health between the poor and non-poor and on the consequences for impoverishment and income inequality associated with health care expenses is discussed in this article. An outline is given of what is known about the causes of inequalities and about the effectiveness of policies intended to combat them. It is argued that too little is known about the impacts of such policies, notwithstanding a wealth of measurement techniques and considerable evidence on the extent and causes of inequalities.

MeSH terms

  • Causality
  • Developed Countries / economics*
  • Developing Countries / economics*
  • Health Expenditures*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Poverty*
  • Social Class
  • Social Justice*
  • Socioeconomic Factors