Prevalence, care-seeking, and health service utilization for non-communicable diseases among Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon

Confl Health. 2016 Oct 19:10:21. doi: 10.1186/s13031-016-0088-3. eCollection 2016.


Background: Given the large burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among both Syrian refugees and the host communities within which they are settled, humanitarian actors and the government of Lebanon face immense challenges in addressing health needs. This study assessed health status, unmet needs, and utilization of health services among Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon was conducted using a two-stage cluster survey design with probability proportional to size sampling. To obtain information on chronic NCDs, respondents were asked a series of questions about hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and arthritis. Differences in household characteristics by care-seeking for these conditions were examined using chi-square, t-test, and adjusted logistic regression methods.

Results: Over half (50.4 %) of refugee and host community households (60.2 %) reported a member with one of the five NCDs. Host community prevalence rates were significantly higher than refugees for all conditions except chronic respiratory diseases (p = 0.08). Care-seeking for NCDs among refugees and host community households was high across all conditions with 82.9 and 97.8 %, respectively, having sought care in Lebanon for their condition. Refugees utilized primary health care centers (PHCC) (57.7 %) most often while host communities sought care most in private clinics (62.4 %). Overall, 69.7 % of refugees and 82.7 % of host community members reported an out-of-pocket consultation payment (p = 0.041) with an average payment of US$15 among refugees and US$42 for the host community (p <0.001).

Conclusions: Given the protracted nature of the Syrian crisis and the burden on the Lebanese health system, implications for both individuals with NCDs and Lebanon's health system are immense. The burden of out of pocket expenses on persons with NCDs are also substantial, especially given the tenuous economic status of many refugees and the less affluent segments of the Lebanese population. Greater investment in the public sector health system could benefit all parties. Efforts to improve quality of care for NCDs at the primary care level are also a critical component of preventing adverse outcomes and lowering the overall cost of care for NCDs.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Host community; Humanitarian assistance; Lebanon; Non-communicable disease; Refugee; Syria.