Socioeconomic inequality in hip replacement in four European countries from 2002 to 2009—area-level analysis of hospital data

Richard Cookson, Nils Gutacker, Sandra Garcia-Armesto, Ester Angulo-Pueyo, Terkel Christiansen, Karen Bloor, Enrique Bernal-Delgado

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BACKGROUND: Cross-country comparisons of socioeconomic equity in health care typically use sample survey data on general services such as physician visits. This study uses comprehensive administrative data on a specific service: hip replacement.

METHODS: We analyse 651 652 publicly funded hip replacements, excluding fractures and accidents, in adults over 35 in Denmark, England, Portugal and Spain from 2002 to 2009. Sub-national administrative areas are split into socioeconomic quintile groups comprising approximately one-fifth of the national population. Area-level Poisson regression with Huber-White standard errors is used to calculate age-sex standardised hip replacement rates by quintile group, together with gaps and ratios between richest and poorest groups (Q5 and Q1) and the middle group (Q3).

RESULTS: We find pro-rich-area inequality in England (2009 Q5/Q1 ratio 1.35 [CI 1.25-1.45]) and Spain (2009 Q5/Q1 ratio 1.43 [CI 1.17-1.70]), pro-poor-area inequality in Portugal (2009 Q5/Q1 ratio 0.67 [CI 0.50-0.83]) and no significant inequality in Denmark. Pro-rich-area inequality increased over time in England and Spain but not significantly. Within-country differences between socioeconomic quintile groups are smaller than between-country differences in general population averages: hip replacement rates are substantially lower in Portugal and Spain (8.6 and 7.4 per 10 000 in 2009) than England and Denmark (20.2 and 27.8 per 10 000 in 2009).

CONCLUSION: Despite limitations regarding individual-level inequality and area heterogeneity, analysis of area-level data on publicly funded hospital activity can provide useful cross-country comparisons and longitudinal monitoring of socioeconomic inequality in specific health services. Although this kind of analysis cannot provide definitive answers, it can raise important questions for decision makers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-27
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue numberSuppl 1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015

Bibliographical note

© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved.

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