Background: The quality of the healthcare system and its role in influencing mortality of migrant groups can be explored by examining ethnic variations in 'avoidable' mortality. This study investigates the association between the level of mortality from 'avoidable' causes and ethnic origin in the Netherlands and identifies social factors that contribute to this association.
Methods: Data were obtained from cause of death and population registries in the period 1995-2000. We compared mortality rates for selected 'avoidable' conditions for Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese and Antillean/Aruban groups to native Dutch.
Results: We found slightly elevated risk in total 'avoidable' mortality for migrant populations (RR = 1.13). Higher risks of death among migrants were observed from almost all infectious diseases (most RR > 3.00) and several chronic conditions including asthma, diabetes and cerebro-vascular disorders (most RR > 1.70). Migrant women experienced a higher risk of death from maternity-related conditions (RR = 3.37). Surinamese and Antillean/Aruban population had a higher mortality risk (RR = 1.65 and 1.31 respectively), while Turkish and Moroccans experienced a lower risk of death (RR = 0.93 and 0.77 respectively) from all 'avoidable' conditions compared to native Dutch. Control for demographic and socioeconomic factors explained a substantial part of ethnic differences in 'avoidable' mortality.
Conclusion: Compared to the native Dutch population, total 'avoidable' mortality was slightly elevated for all migrants combined. Mortality risks varied greatly by cause of death and ethnic origin. The substantial differences in mortality for a few 'avoidable' conditions suggest opportunities for quality improvement within specific areas of the healthcare system targeted to disadvantaged groups.