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LO078: The immigrant effect: a barrier to accessing primary and emergency department care - a Canadian population cross-sectional study

  • R. Ohle (a1), H. Bleeker (a1) and J.J. Perry (a1)

Abstract

Introduction: In 2011, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6,775,800 people. They represented 20.6% of the total population, the highest proportion among the G8 countries. Immigrants encounter significant barriers to accessing primary healthcare. This is thought to be due to lower education level, employment status and the healthy immigrant effect. Our objective was to assess in an immigrant population without a primary care physician, would similar socioeconomic barriers also prevent access to the emergency department. Methods: Data regarding individuals’ ≥12 years of age from the Canadian Community Health Survey, 2007 to 2008 were analyzed (N=134,073, response rate 93%). Our study population comprised 15,554 individuals identified without a primary care physician who used emergency department care. Socioeconomic variables included employment, health status, and education. Covariates included chronic health conditions, mobility, gender, age, and mental health. Prevalence estimates and confidence intervals for each variable were calculated. Weighted logistic regression models were constructed to evaluate the importance of individual risk factors and their interactions after adjustment for relevant covariates. Model parameters were estimated by the method of maximum likelihood. The Wald statistic was employed to test the significance of individual variables or interaction terms in relation to ED choice. Results: Our study population included 1,767 immigrants and 13,787 Canadian born respondents from across Canada without a primary care physician (57.3% male). Immigrants were less likely to use the emergency department then Canadian born respondents (Odds Ratio 0.4759 (95%CI 0.396-0.572). Adjusting for health, education or employment had no effect on this reduced access (Odds Ratio 0.468 (95%CI 0.378-0.579). Conclusion: In a Canadian population without a primary care physician, immigrants access the emergency department less then Canadian born respondents. However this effect is independent of previously reported social and economic barriers. Immigration status is an important but complex component of racial and ethnic disparity in access to care. Specific policy and system development targeting this at risk population are required to allow for equal access to healthcare.

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