Ras Beirut is a heterogeneous neighborhood, as compared to other locations of the capital, offering a pragmatic and interesting perspective to understanding relative poverty.
The preliminary results of a pilot survey conducted in the Ras Beirut area of the Lebanese capital to gauge the health repercussions of social inequalities were presented at the American University of Beirut’s (AUB) Center for Research on Population and Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, on June 16.
The study was headed by Afamia Kaddour, a doctoral student in social epidemiology at Paris Sud XI, in part for her doctoral thesis. It was funded by the Ford Foundation through the AUB Neighborhood Initiative and the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research.
“We chose Ras Beirut for multiple reasons,” said Kaddour, who also holds a BSc in environmental health, a MPH in epidemiology and a Harvard MSc in global health and population. “It is a heterogeneous neighborhood, as compared to other locations of the capital, offering a pragmatic and interesting perspective to understanding relative poverty.”
The random sample of 1,200 households chosen was proportional to the cluster, using spatial sampling techniques; a proxy answered the household questionnaire and a randomly chosen adult (over 21) from each household answered the individual questionnaire. The team got a response rate of 49.25 percent.
In the study, material deprivation (objective and subjective) was assessed relative to a family that manages to live well, with no debts, is able to afford private education for the children, to buy quality food, to go out once a week, to have second class insurance and to save a bit at the end of the month. People not only compared themselves up or down the scale, like the poor to the rich and vice versa, but across the same level as well. Responses included blaming the political and economic system, religious and cultural factors and personal attitudes among others.
Social inequalities in health are not recent, but universal and persisting phenomena in a context of growing inequalities. They exist irrespective of development status and are mostly lifelong. Historically, research on health inequalities started in the 19th century with a descriptive analysis linking societal conditions and health. In the 1990s, the research examined the social and economic determinants of health inequalities as the latter were not explained by income alone.
The presentation of the study’s preliminary findings elicited a lot of questions and requests for clarifications from the interested attendees who considered the results a bit confusing. “We are still fine tuning. The responses elicited from our sample group included a variation from the models that were used in the west as people here reacted differently,” clarified Kaddour. “I remind you that these are still preliminary results and there is still lot of work in the pipeline, including refining the conceptual framework.”
There will be a follow up presentation in September 2011 to present the social, economic, and health profile of the residents in Ras Beirut, which will be later published in a monograph by the Center for Research on Population and Health at AUB.