Health care utilization by immigrants in Italy

Int J Health Care Finance Econ. 2013 Mar;13(1):1-31. doi: 10.1007/s10754-012-9119-9. Epub 2012 Dec 13.


Healthcare utilization studies show how well documented disparities between migrants and non-migrants. Reducing such disparities is a major goal in European countries. However, healthcare utilization among Italian immigrants is under-studied. The objective of this study is to explore differences in healthcare use between immigrant and native Italians. Cross-sectional study using the latest available (2004/2005) Italian Health Conditions Survey. We estimated separate hurdle binomial negative regression models for GP, specialist, and telephone consultations and a logit model for emergency room (ER) use. We used logistic regression and zero-truncated negative binomial regression to model the zero (contact decision) and count processes (frequency decisions) respectively. Adjusting for risk factors, immigrants are significantly less likely to use healthcare services with 2.4 and 2.7 % lower utilization probability for specialist and telephone consultations, respectively. First- and second-generation immigrants' probability for specialist and telephone contact is significantly lower than natives'. Immigrants, ceteris paribus, have a much higher probability of using ERs than natives (0.7 %). First-generation immigrants show a higher probability of visiting ERs (1 %). GP visits show no significant difference. In conclusion Italian immigrants are much less likely to use specialist healthcare and medical telephone consultations than natives but more likely to use ERs. Hence, we report an over-use of ERs and under-utilization of preventive care among immigrants. We recommend improved health policies for immigrants: promotion of better information dissemination among them, simplification of organizational procedures, better communications between providers and immigrants, and an increased supply of health services for the most disadvantaged populations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / ethnology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • General Practitioners / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Behavior / ethnology
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Italy
  • Language
  • Male
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult