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Health and wellbeing in Udaipur and South Africa

Authors
Disciplines
  • Economics
  • Medicine
  • Psychology

Abstract

This paper presents a descriptive account of health and economic status in India and South Africa – countries in very different positions in the international hierarchy of life expectancy and income. The paper emphasizes the lack of any simple and reliable relationship between health and wealth between and within our sites in rural Rajasthan, in a shack township outside of Cape Town, and in a rural South African site that, until 1994, was part of a Bantustan. Income levels across our sites are roughly in the ratio of 4:2:1, with urban South Africa richest and rural Rajasthan poorest, while ownership of durable goods, often used as a short-cut measure or check of living standards, are in the ratio of 3:2:1. These differences in economic status are reflected in respondents’ own reports of financial status. People know that they are poor, but appear to adapt their expectations to local conditions, at least to some extent. The South Africans are taller and heavier than the Indians—although their children are no taller at the same age. South African self-assessed physical and mental health is no better, and South Africans are more likely to report that they have to miss meals for lack of money. In spite of differences in incomes across the three sites, South Africans and Indians report a very similar list of symptoms of ill-health. Although they have much lower incomes, urban women in South Africa have fully caught up with black American women in the prevalence of obesity, and are catching up in terms of hypertension. These women have the misfortune to be experiencing many of the diseases of affluence without experiencing affluence itself.

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