Is dengue a disease of poverty? A systematic review
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Policy prescriptions for combating dengue fever tend to focus on addressing environmental and social conditions of poverty. However, while poverty has long been considered a determinant of dengue, the research evidence for such a relationship is not well established. Results of a systematic review of the research literature designed to identify and assess the current state of the empirical evidence for the dengue-poverty link reveal a mixed story. Of 260 peer-reviewed articles referencing dengue-poverty relationships, only 12 English-language studies empirically assessed these relationships. Our analysis covering various social and economic conditions of poverty showed no clear associations with dengue rates. While nine of the 12 studies demonstrated some positive associations between measures of dengue and poverty (measured inconsistently through income, education, structural housing condition, overcrowding, and socioeconomic status), nine also presented null results and five with negative results. Of the five studies relating to access to water and sanitation, four reported null associations. Income and physical housing conditions were more consistently correlated with dengue outcomes than other poverty indicators. The small size of this sample, and the heterogeneity of measures and scales used to capture conditions of poverty, make it difficult to assess the strength and consistency of associations between various poverty indicators and dengue outcomes. At present, the global body of eligible English-language peer-reviewed literature investigating dengue-poverty relationships is too small to support a definitive relationship. We conclude that more research, particularly using standardized measures of both outcomes and indicators, is needed to support evidence-informed policies and approaches.
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