Introduction National Health Surveys provide essential data to monitoring health conditions and the magnitude of health inequalities. The aims of this study were to evaluate the 2008 prevalence of chronic diseases in Brazilian population comparing to 2003 data and to measure the social inequalities on the prevalence of the surveyed diseases according to educational strata.
Methods Data were obtained from the Brazilian National Survey (PNAD - health supplement) carried out on 2003 (sample of 384 764 individuals) and 2008 (sample size of 391 868). Prevalence and adjusted prevalence ratios were estimated using Poisson Multiple Regression with svy commands of Stata v.11.
Results The prevalence of at least one disease was significantly higher in: elders, women, low schooling level, black or indigenous people, urban residents, migrants and people living in the south region of Brazil. The most frequent diseases were: back and spinal cord disorders (13.5% considering all age groups), hypertension (14.0%), arthritis (5.7%) and depression (4.1%). Between 2003 and 2008 it was observed a significantly increase on the prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, cancer and cirrhoses, and a reduction on prevalence of chronic kidney failure and tuberculosis. All the 12 analysed diseases, with the exception of cancer and tendinitis/tenossinovitis, showed significant higher prevalence on low educational level strata. The larger social inequalities were observed for chronic kidney failure (PR=2.11), cirrhoses (PR=2.74), tuberculosis (PR=1.74) and arthritis/rheumatism (PR=1.51).
Conclusion The pattern of chronic conditions is changing in the Brazilian population but the health social inequalities persist as an important national challenge.
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