Objective: To assess the correlates of unmet need for medical care among migrant children.
Design and setting: A cross-sectional household survey used multistage sampling to identify migrant families in eastern North Carolina.
Participants: Three hundred adult caretakers of 1 (per household) randomly selected child <13 years old.
Results: Fifty-three percent of the children had an unmet medical need. The most common reasons for unmet medical need were lack of transportation (80%) and lack of knowledge of where to go for care (20%). Unmet medical need was associated inversely with less than very good health (odds ratio [OR]: 0.31; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.16-0.61) and less than high school caretaker education (OR: 0.62; 95% CI: 0.39-0.98) and was associated directly with 1) having bed-days due to illness (OR: 2.46; 95% CI: 1.42-4.26), 2) lacking an annual well examination (OR:1.89; 95% CI: 1.12-3.20), 3) transportation dependence (OR:1.97; 95% CI: 1.24-3.13), 4) female gender (OR: 1.69; 95% CI: 1.07-2.67), 5) preschool age (OR: 2.24; 95% CI: 1.28-3.92), and 6) very high caretaker work pressure (OR: 5.01; 95% CI: 2.98-8.42). Adjustment using multiple logistic regression reveals unmet medical need to be independently associated with preschool age (OR: 2.08; 95% CI: 1.05-4.13) and very high caretaker pressure to work (OR: 5.93; 95% CI: 3.24-10.85). Of sampled children, 27% were preschool aged, and 40% had caretakers categorized with high work pressure.
Conclusions: Medical-access barriers among migrant children are largely nonfinancial. Preschool-aged migrant children disproportionately experience unmet medical need. Decreasing forgone care among migrant children will likely require a combination of individual, health-system, and labor-policy modifications.