Healthcare-seeking patterns among immigrants in Portugal

Health Soc Care Community. 2011 Sep;19(5):514-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2011.00996.x. Epub 2011 May 17.


Equity of access to health services is a major concern as it is an important precondition for positive health outcomes. However, inequities in use of health services among immigrant populations persist. Despite the increasing research in the field, patterns of healthcare seeking among immigrant populations and its associated factors are not fully understood. This study aimed to investigate healthcare-seeking patterns among immigrants in Portugal and identify factors associated with utilisation of health services. A cross-sectional study was conducted between October 2008 and May 2009 with a sample of 1,375 immigrants residing in the Lisbon region. Data were collected through a structured questionnaire applied by trained interviewers. Two stepwise logistic regressions were conducted to identify which factors were associated with utilisation of the National Health Service (NHS) and with healthcare seeking for the first time in Portugal at the Primary Health Care service, estimated by calculating odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals. Among participants, around 77% reported having used the NHS; 50% sought health-care for the first time at the Primary Health Care service and 33% at the emergency room. Lower odds of having used the NHS were associated with being male, Brazilian or eastern European compared with being African, and undocumented. Lower odds of having sought health-care for the first time at the Primary Health Care service were associated with being male and undocumented. These results suggest that further efforts are needed to tackle inequalities in access to care and promote the utilisation of health services, particularly among the more vulnerable immigrant groups. Increasing appropriate utilisation of health services, including the primary and preventive care services, may lead to better health outcomes. Immigrants' involvement and participation should be incorporated into the development of health strategies to improve access and utilisation of healthcare services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / organization & administration
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Portugal
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Public Health