Adult health and health equity in times of fast economic growth in Albania (2002-2005)
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Albania experienced remarkable economic growth in the years before the current economic crisis. The question arises then, what, if any, benefits did that growth bring to health? Furthermore, did the gaps in health between the rich and poor increase? The research team sought to answer those questions using a hitherto underexploited but promising source of data: the Albanian Living Standard Measurement Survey from 2002 to 2005. The team found that most, but not all health indicators derived from this survey point towards an improvement in overall health. Hence, while some literature on other countries suggests that exceptionally fast growth was bad for health, this does – fortunately – not seem to be the case here. They also found significant socioeconomic inequalities in health in every year from 2002 to 2005, irrespective of the choice of socioeconomic status (SES) and health proxy. Income proves to be a less appropriate proxy for SES in Albania, compared to consumption, the deprivation index and education. It is harder to say whether health inequities have unambiguously increased over the observation period. The authors do can, however, conclude that as far as chronic illness is concerned, the degree of health inequity was greater in 2003–2005 taken together than it was in 2002. Hence, while the general progress in average health in Albania is laudable, the country may need to invest more efforts in reducing the sizeable gaps in health between the rich and poor. Such efforts require action within but also outside the health care system.