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Immigrants in the Netherlands: Equal access for equal needs?


OBJECTIVE This paper examines whether equal utilisation of health care services for first generation immigrant groups has been achieved in the Netherlands.

DESIGN Survey data were linked to an insurance register concerning people aged 16–64. Ethnic differences in the use of a broad range of health care services were examined in this group, with and without adjustment for health status and socioeconomic status, using logistic regression.

SETTING Publicly insured population in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

PARTICIPANTS 1422 people from the indigenous population, and 378 people from the four largest immigrant groups in the Netherlands—that is, the Surinamese, the Netherlands Antilleans, and the Turkish and Moroccan.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES General practitioner service use (past two months), prescription drug use (past three months), outpatient specialist contact (past two months), hospital admission (past year), physiotherapist contact (past two months) and contact with other paramedics (past year).

MAIN RESULTS Ethnicity was found to be associated with the use of health care after controlling for health status as an indicator for need. The use of general practitioner care and the use of prescribed drugs was increased among people from Surinam, Turkey and Morocco as compared with the indigenous population. Compared with the indigenous group with corresponding health status, the use of all other more specialised services was relatively low among Turkish and Moroccan people. Among the Surinamese population, the use of more specialised care was highly similar to that found in the Dutch population after differences in need were controlled for. Among people from the Netherlands Antilles, we observed a relatively high use of hospital services in combination with underuse of general practitioner services. The lower socioeconomic status of immigrant groups explained most of the increased use of the general practitioner and prescribed drugs, but could not account for the lower use of the more specialised services.

CONCLUSIONS The results indicate that the utilisation of more specialised health care is lower for immigrant groups in the Netherlands, particularly for Turkish and Moroccan people and to a lesser extent, people from the Netherlands Antilles. Although underuse of more specialised services is also present among the lower socioeconomic groups in the Netherlands, the analyses indicate that this only partly explains the lower utilisation of these services among immigrant groups. This suggests that ethnic background in itself may account for patterns of consumption, potentially because of limited access.

  • ethnic minorities
  • equality

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  • Funding: the fieldwork of this study was financially supported by the Municipality of Amsterdam, eight submunicipal authorities (“stadsdeelraden”), the Amsterdam Municipal Health Service (GG&GD), and the Amsterdam Social Health Insurance Company (ZAO). The analysis were financially supported by the Amsterdam Social Health Insurance Company (ZAO), the Amsterdam Academic Medical Centre, and TNO Prevention and Health.

  • Conflicts of interests: none.