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© 2019 The Authors Unlike other aspects of welfare (e.g. income), health has been relatively neglected when it comes to defining and measuring aspects of poverty. The aim of the paper is twofold: first we elaborate how the concept of ‘health poverty’ can be defined and measured, and second we apply the methodology to study health poverty in a variety of cases. The measurement of health poverty allows us to gain insights into different sorts of health deprivation in society as a whole, and in specific subgroups. We measure poverty by means of the widely adopted Foster-Greer-Thorbecke (FGT) class of indicators and apply this to three different health variables: cardiovascular risk, health status and life expectancy. Moreover, the FGT class is additively decomposable, making it possible to gauge the contribution of specific subgroups to overall poverty. We provide two applications of these methods. Firstly, we examine changes in the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the United States using two waves of the NHANES survey from 2005-06 and 2013-14 (n = 3,014 and 4,001 respectively) and use a threshold of 20% 10 year CVD risk to define health poverty. Overall our results indicate a slight decline in the proportion at high CVD risk between these periods. Secondly, we apply poverty measures to health status as measured by the SF-6D index and to empirically derived predictions of life expectancy and estimated using 24,820 individuals from the first 15 waves of the Australian HILDA survey. Trends in poverty over time are compared using several thresholds and decomposed by a variety of sub-groups. Measures of health poverty can be an important instrument for focusing the attention on those with the worst health, or highest risk, in a society and should be used more widely.

Original publication




Journal article


Social Science and Medicine

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