In Quebec, the deprivation index was created first and foremost to overcome the lack of socioeconomic data in most administrative databases.
Developing an ecological proxy was the only way to monitor social inequalities related to important health issues such as mortality, hospitalization and the use of health services. The proxy’s main purpose is to assign area-based socioeconomic information to every individual by linking the geography of the census with the one found in the administrative databases. As a result, the index assists in the surveillance of social inequalities in health in Québec and Canada since the end of the 1980s.
While it was shown that the deprivation index underestimates inequalities (Pampalon, Hamel, Gamache, 2009), it is the best alternative in the absence of socioeconomic information.