Introduction Social inequalities in health is an important problem in Brazil challenging the public Health System. This is also an issue that affects the elderly population.
Objective The aim of this study was to assess the magnitude of social inequalities in health status, health behaviour and use of health services in elderly.
Methods A population-based cross-sectional study was carried out in 2008 e 2009 involving 1518 elderly residents of Campinas, SP, Brazil (ISACAMP 2008/2009). Social inequalities were assessed by educational level. Prevalence and adjusted prevalence ratios were estimated applying Poisson multiple regression, using svy commands of Stata11.
Results Significant social differences were found between the educational strata. Elderly individuals with a higher degree of schooling consume more alcoholic beverages (RP=1.94), are less sedentary (RP=0.72), have healthier dietary (1.64) and a lower prevalence of hypertension (RP=0.80), diabetes (RP=0.71), dizziness (RP=0.67), headaches (RP=0.52), back pain (RP=0.77), visual impairment (RP=0.57) and denture use (RP=0.68). But, there were no differences in the use of health services in the previous 2 weeks, in hospitalisation or in surgeries in the previous year and in medicine intake in the previous 3 days. Among elderly with hypertension or diabetes, there were also no differences in the regular use of health services and medication.
Conclusion The results showed strong social inequality in this elderly population with significant differences in several health indicators, along with equity in the access of some health service components, suggesting positive effects of the Brazilian Public Health System on promoting health equity.