“…Coming years [in Latin America] will see increased pressures from a range of diseases that, although traditionally depicted as being diseases of affluence, actually strikes along the fault lines of social inequality. If these diseases are not controlled, they will severely limit the economic development of the region and cast further doubt on its ability to decrease the percentage of the population that lives in poverty. Chronic diseases will exacerbate existing inequalities.”
Although chronic non-communicable diseases are traditionally depicted as diseases of affluence, growing evidence suggests they strike along the fault lines of social inequality. The challenge of understanding how these conditions shape patterns of population health in Latin America requires an inter-disciplinary lens. This paper reviews the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases in the region and examines key myths surrounding their prevalence and distribution. It argues that a social justice approach rooted in the idea of health inequity needs to be at the core of research in this area, and concludes with discussion of a new approach to guide empirical research, the ‘average/deprivation/inequality’ framework.