A Systematic Review of the Literature on the Relationship between Caste Membership and Health-Related Risk Factors in India
The purpose of this systematic review is firstly to critically appraise and summarize the peerreviewed published evidence on the relationship between the caste system and risk factors for poor health status in India and secondly, to discuss the concept of the social gradient and policies that have been developed to address social inequalities of healthcare in India. Studies explored the relationship between caste membership and health-related risk factors such as mortality, health behaviors, and nutritional status. Review revealed odds of mortality; poor health behaviors and poor nutritional status were higher and in some cases were significantly higher in lower caste groups in comparison to reference groups. Odds ratios reported for mortality and poor health behaviors were significantly higher in older populations. Odds ratios reported for nutritional status and mortality were significantly higher in younger populations. Further research on the independent effects of wealth and education would broaden the scope of the social gradient health equation in India.