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BACKGROUND: Monitoring health inequalities is an important task for health research and policy, to uncover who is being left behind - and where - and to inform effective and equitable policies and programmes to tackle existing inequities. The choice of which measure to use to monitor and analyse health inequalities is thereby not trivial. This article explores a new measure of socioeconomic deprivation status (SDS) to monitor health inequalities. METHODS: The SDS measure was constructed using the Alkire-Foster method. It includes eight indicators across two equally weighted dimensions (education and living standards) and specifies a four-level gradient of socioeconomic deprivation at the household-level. We conducted four exercises to examine the value-added of the proposed SDS measure, using Demographic and Health Surveys data. First, we examined the discriminatory power of the new measure when applied to outcomes in four select reproductive, maternal, neonatal, and child health (RMNCH) indicators across six countries: skilled birth attendance, stunting, U5MR, and DTP3 immunisation. Then, we analysed the behaviour and association of the new SDS measure vis-à-vis the DHS Wealth Index, including chi-squared test and Pearson correlation coefficient. Third, we analysed the robustness of the SDS measure results to changes in its structure, using pairwise comparisons and Kendal Tau-b rank correlation. Finally, we illustrated some of the advantageous properties of the new measure, disaggregation and decomposition, on Haitian data. RESULTS: 1) Higher levels of socioeconomic deprivation are generally consistently associated with lower levels of achievements in the RMNCH indicators across countries. 2) 87% of all pairwise rank comparisons across a range of SDS measure structures were robust. 3) SDS and DHS Wealth Index are associated, but with considerable cross-country variation, highlighting their complementarity. 4) Haitian households in rural areas experienced, on average, more severe socioeconomic deprivation as well as lower levels of RMNCH achievement than urban households. CONCLUSIONS: The proposed SDS measure adds analytical possibilities to the health inequality monitoring literature, in line with ethically and conceptually well-founded notions of absolute, multidimensional disadvantage. In addition, it allows for breakdown by its dimensions and components, which may facilitate nuanced analyses of health inequality, its correlates, and determinants.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Equity Health

Publication Date





Data disaggregation, Disadvantage, Equity, Global health, Health inequalities, Measurement, Monitoring inequalities, RMNCH, Socioeconomic deprivation, Child, Haiti, Health Status Disparities, Healthcare Disparities, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Social Class, Socioeconomic Factors