Immigrants with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Ontario use public health services as much as long-term residents, but are more likely to be hospitalized during the year in which they are diagnosed, according to a recent study.
While reasons for that year’s higher hospitalization rates are not clear, evidence supports that immigrants to Ontario “are not systematically disadvantaged” in accessing its free health care, the researchers wrote.
The study, “Health service utilization in immigrants with multiple sclerosis,” was published in the journal PLOS One.
Factors like sex, race, immigration status, and income can affect a person’s access to healthcare services in general. Disease like MS can be a complication, as they often require early treatment and specialized neurological care to promote better long-term outcomes.
Little is currently known regarding socioeconomic factors that most influence health service utilization among people with MS. In particular, no previous study has measured the effect that being an immigrant on such use.
Researchers in Canada studied health services use in Ontario — a province with universal healthcare services without user fees, and with one of the largest and most diverse immigrant populations globally.
They reviewed medical records of immigrants and long-term residents with MS between the ages of 20 and 65, focusing on health service utilization during the year prior to a diagnosis and for two years afterward.
Records from 2003 to 2014 showed 13,028 cases of MS in Ontario, with 1,070 (8.2%) diagnosed in people who were immigrants.
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