Background: This paper addresses the extent to which equity of treatment according to need, as defined by self-reported health status, is received by members of ethnic minorities in Swedish health services.
Methods: The study was based on a multivariate analysis of cross-sectional data from the Swedish Survey of Living Conditions and Immigrant Survey of Living Conditions in 1996 on use of health services, morbidity and socioeconomic indicators. The study population consisted of 1,890 Swedish residents aged 27-60 years born in Chile, Poland, Turkey and Iran and 2,452 age-matched, Swedish-born residents.
Main results: Residents born in Chile, Iran and Turkey were more likely to have consulted a physician during the 3 months prior to the interview compared to Swedish-born residents; odds ratios (ORs) 1.4 (95% CI: 1.2-1.7), 1.3 (95% CI: 1.1-1.7) and 1.5 (95% CI: 1.3-1.9) respectively. The higher consultation rate in these ethnic minorities was primarily explained by a less satisfactory, self-reported health status compared to Swedish-born residents. Thirty-eight percent of the minority study groups reported exposure to organised violence in their country of origin, which was associated with a higher level of use of consultations with a physician (OR 1.3, 95% CI: 1.1-1.6).
Conclusions: This study did not indicate any gross pattern of inequity in access to care for ethnic minorities in Sweden. Systems for allocating resources to health authorities need to consider the possibility that ethnic minorities in Sweden and in particular victims of organised violence, use health services more than is suggested by socioeconomic indicators only.