Use of health care services by Afghan, Iranian, and Somali refugees and asylum seekers living in The Netherlands

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Abstract

Background

Although asylum seekers have been coming to The Netherlands since the 1980s, very few epidemiological studies have focused on this group of inhabitants, or on the refugees who have resettled in this country. The objective of this study is to estimate the use of health care services by refugees and asylum seekers and to identify determinants for this utilisation.

Methods

A population-based study was conducted in The Netherlands from June 2003 to April 2004 among adult refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran, and Somalia. A total of 178 refugees and 232 asylum seekers, living in 3 municipalities and 14 reception centres, participated.

Results

This study showed that there are no differences between refugees and asylum seekers in the self-reported use of health care services. Respondents from Somalia reported less contacts with a general practitioner, less use of mental health services, and less medication use than respondents from Afghanistan and Iran. Both female gender and older age were related to more contacts with a general practitioner and a medical specialist, and with higher medication use. Poor general health was related to more contacts with a medical specialist and mental health services, and with higher medication use.

Conclusion

Asylum seekers and refugees seem to have equal access to the Dutch health care system in general. However, there are differences in the self-reported use of health care services by the different ethnic groups.

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