The health of the poor: Women living in informal settlements

  • G Fink
  • R Arku
  • L Montana
Keywords: slums, urban health, informal settlements, short-form 36 (SF-36).


Objectives: A large share of the urban population in developing countries lives in informal settlements or “slums” today. This study investigates the association between slum residence and health among adult Ghanaian women residing in the Accra Metropolitan Area.
Methods: Health data collected as part of the Women’s Health Study of Accra round II (WHSA-II) was combined with data from the Household and Welfare Study of Accra (HAWS) to compare the health of female slum dwellers to the health of female non-slum dwellers living in the Accra Metropolitan Area. Group means were calculated and multivariate linear regression models were estimated to compare eight domains of
health as measured by the short-form 36 (SF-36) questionnaire.
Results: Women living in informal settlements were found to display consistently better health. Conditional on all observable characteristics, women living in informal settlements scored higher on all self-reported
health outcomes than women living in non-slum areas. The differences appear largest for general health as well as for the physical role functioning domains, and appear smallest for the social role functioning and bodily pain domains.
Conclusions: The results presented suggest that slum residence does not have a negative effect on self-reported health among women in Accra. Three factors may contribute to the generally positive association between
slum residence and observed outcomes: i) selfselection of individuals with strong health into informal settlements and an accordingly small impact of
environmental factors on health ii) self-selection of more driven and ambitious individuals into slum neighborhoods who may have a generally more positive view of their health and iii) the geographic placement of
slum neighborhoods in central neighborhoods with relatively easy access to health facilities.

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 0016-9560