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Ageing in Portugal: regional iniquities in health and health care


  • Santana, Paula


The health of the Portuguese has improved considerably in the last twenty years. Economic and social transformations that have contributed to the progressive amelioration of problems of feeding, sanitation, hygiene, housing and social conditions in general, as well as health services, have had decisive effect on this phenomenon. The spectacular regression of the indicators related to transmitted diseases, infant, perinatal (more than 50% between 1985 and 1994) and maternal mortality, and the mortality of children 1 to 4 yr old, also reflects this impact. The positive changes that took place in health indicators were reflected in the growth of life expectancy at birth (2.2 yr more for male and 2.3 more for women between 1985 and 1994) in spite of the fact that the difference in life expectancy in relation to EU countries has grown. Improvement in life expectancy, especially in the older age groups, is not normally associated with significant reductions in morbidity. In fact, increased longevity has become more generally associated with chronic illness or other disabilities requiring more medical services and other forms of personal care. This paper reviews some of the evidence for regional differences in the health status of elderly people in Portugal and considers how health services have reacted to these differences. A preliminary study of health status and patterns of utilisation of elderly people was undertaken. After 30 yr of a National Health Service (NHS) in Portugal we may ask why do inequities in health and access to health care of the elderly population persist? Proactive policies to prevent illness and promote health are still relatively underdeveloped in the Portuguese NHS, and the factors that influence health, such as housing, diet and occupational health hazards, remain largely absent from health and welfare policies. Poor accessibility to health services is the most serious barrier consumers have to face in order to get a medical appointment, and this is more relevant to the oldest part of the population. Geographical location of health care facilities unequally affects the ease of access of different groups of consumers and influences utilisation patterns. Examining the distribution of health services resources is an important way to understand the inequities of access to health and to health care.

Suggested Citation

  • Santana, Paula, 2000. "Ageing in Portugal: regional iniquities in health and health care," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(7-8), pages 1025-1036, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:50:y:2000:i:7-8:p:1025-1036

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    Cited by:

    1. Oliveira, Monica Duarte & Bevan, Gwyn, 2003. "Measuring geographic inequities in the Portuguese health care system: an estimation of hospital care needs," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 277-293, December.
    2. Nádia Simões & Nuno Crespo & Sandrina B. Moreira & Celeste A. Varum, 2016. "Measurement and determinants of health poverty and richness: evidence from Portugal," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 50(4), pages 1331-1358, June.
    3. Mónica Duarte Oliveira & Carlos Gouveia Pinto, 2005. "Health care reform in Portugal: an evaluation of the NHS experience," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(S1), pages 203-220.
    4. João Carlos Lopes & Paula Cristina Albuquerque, 2012. "The characteristics and regional distribution of older workers in Portugal," Working Papers Department of Economics 2012/22, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.


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