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Socioeconomic differences in children's use of physician services in the Nordic countries
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  1. M Halldórsson1,
  2. A E Kunst2,
  3. L Köhler3,
  4. J P Mackenbach2
  1. 1Directorate of Health in Iceland
  2. 2Department of Public Health, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
  3. 3Nordic School of Public Health, Gothenburg, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Halldórsson, Bollagardar 3, 170 Seltjarnarnes, Iceland; 
 matthias{at}landlaeknir.is

Abstract

Objective: To assess the relation between socioeconomic factors and the use of physician services among children and whether variations of the level of co-payment are correlated with different levels of inequalities in health services use.

Design: Description of the socioeconomic differences in the use of health care using data from countrywide postal surveys to parents.

Setting: The five Nordic countries in 1996.

Subjects: Samples of 15 000 children aged 2–17 years: 3000 children at random, from the national registry in each country.

Main outcome measure: Odds ratios of use of GP, specialist, and hospital services between children according to the educational level of both parents and the disposable income of the family, for all countries together and for each country separately. Odds ratios were adjusted for age, sex, urbanisation grade, and health status.

Results: There was little difference in the use of GP services according to socioeconomic factors. Parents from lower socioeconomic groups used telephone services of physicians less than parents from the higher groups and children of lower socioeconomic groups were seen less often by specialists. The reverse was true for hospitalisation of the children. The differential use of those three types of services was more marked in Denmark, Finland and Norway than in Iceland and Sweden. When controlled for other socioeconomic factors, the largest differences were observed according to the education of the mother.

Conclusion: The specialist services and use of telephone services for children in the Nordic countries do not meet the criteria of equal use for equal need whereas the GP services and hospital services do to some extent. The education of the mother is a more important determinant than income for the use of each service.

  • socioeconomic factors
  • health care utilisation
  • children

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