Objective: the study is aimed at developing a nationwide deprivation index at municipality and census block level, based on the 2001 Census data, and meeting epidemiological needs.
Setting and participants: The study uses data drawn from the 2001 General Census of Population and Housing. From the 280 variables defined at census block level (352,605 census tracts with average number of inhabitants 169, standard deviation 225; and average area 0.6 km², sd 2.4 km²) five traits that operationally combine to represent the multidimensionality of the social and material deprivation concept have been selected; these are: low level of education, unemployment, non-home ownership, one parent family and overcrowding. The index is calculated by summing standardized indicators and it is also available as categorical by quintiles of population. The same procedure is applied to aggregate frequency data at municipality level. The correlation between mortality and deprivation has been evaluated using 2000-2004 general mortality.
Results: considering national data, a strong north-south gradient in deprivation was observed. The municipality deprivation index 2001 is highly correlated to the index likewise calculated on the basis of the previous 1991 Census (r=0.91). General mortality was positively correlated to the index (in particular in population up to 64 years and in larger size municipalities).
Conclusion: the pattern described by the deprivation index was coherent with what is already known about geographic distribution of poverty and its impact on mortality. Such outcome bears out the index use for epidemiological purposes.