Objective: To study health problems and use of medical care in a group of rural and urban children. To relate a number of socio-demographic factors to the children's consultation frequency. To compare high- and low-consulting children with respect to socio-economic status of the family and use of medical care and sicklisting pattern of their parents.
Design: Health check-up at school start. Investigation of the children's medical records from birth to the age of seven, and of their parents' use of primary medical care during the same period.
Setting: Lammhult, a rural community with 3000 inhabitants, and Teleborg, an urban district with 9000 inhabitants, situated in Växjö town, southern Sweden.
Subjects: 38 rural and 38 urban preschool children, as well as their parents.
Main outcome measures: Medical visits encountered and antibiotic courses prescribed during the first seven years of life.
Results: Parents having manual occupations and mother being a smoker were factors of importance for the children's use of health and medical care (i.e. gave a high number of medical visits). The 14 high consulters had recurring respiratory tract infections and allergic/asthmatic complaints. Their parents were also high users of primary medical care and they were more often sick-listed than parents of low-consulting children. Rural and urban children made the same number of medical visits and received the same number of antibiotic courses during their first seven years of life.
Conclusion: With respect to the children's use of health and medical care, we found only minor differences between rural and urban children, whereas socio-economic characteristics of the families were of importance. Moreover, high-consulting children had parents who were high users of primary medical care and who were often sick-listed.