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Study Reveals Life Expectancy Inequalities in Six Large Latin American Cities

A recent study carried out by the Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) project and published in The Lancet Planetary Health highlights the importance of generating policies to reduce social inequalities in urban areas of Latin America.

The study, Inequalities in life expectancy in six large Latin American cities from the SALURBAL study: an ecological analysis, was conducted by a team of researchers from Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, and the United States — including Institute of Transportation Studies Berkeley Associate Director Daniel Rodriguez, and reveals important differences in life expectancy within ​six Latin American cities. It also highlights the relationship between life expectancy and the socioeconomic status of a person’s area of residence.

“Now that we have concrete numbers outlining the connection between life expectancy and socioeconomic status in these countries, we can look at the why and  work to reduce these inequalities,” says Rodriguez.

Publication authors also include: Drexel University’s Usama Bilal, Universidad Nacional de Lanús’ Marcio Alazraqui, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais’ Waleska T Caiaffa, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública’s Nancy Lopez-Olmedo, Drexel University’s Kevin Martinez-Folgar, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia’s Jaime Miranda, Universidad Católica de Chile’s Alejandra Vives, and Drexel University’s Ana V Diez-Roux.

“This is the first time that the extreme magnitude of inequalities in life expectancy has been mapped for several cities in Latin America, and it constitutes a fundamental first step towards reducing or eradicating these inequalities in the future,” says first author Bilal, MD, PhD, and assistant professor at Drexel University.

Between them, the six cities house more than 50 million people. Each city shows important differences in life expectancy according to the area where people live. Santiago de Chile and Panama City are two of the cities with the greatest differences. For example, in Santiago, the gap in life expectancy between areas in the city is almost nine years for men and 18 years for women. Panama City presents a difference of almost 15 years for both men and women. Important inequalities were also observed in Buenos Aires, Belo Horizonte, San José, and Mexico City.

Part of this gap may be explained by socio-economic context, which was determined based on educational level for each area within cities. In the case of Santiago, the difference in life expectancy between areas with the highest and lowest education levels can be up to eight years for men and up to twelve years for women. Describing this type of inequality in the Latin American population is a fundamental step to understanding and addressing the determinants of urban health in the region.

 “These results highlight the importance of developing urban policies focused on reducing social inequalities and improving social and environmental conditions in the poorest neighborhoods of Latin American cities,” said SALURBAL principal investigator Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, dean of Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health.

Click here to read the paper.  

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