Utilization of outpatient services in refugee settlement health facilities: A comparison by age, gender, and refugee versus host national status

William M. Weiss, Alexander Vu, Hannah Tappis, Sarah Meyer, Christopher Haskew, Paul Spiegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: Comparisons between refugees receiving health care in settlement-based facilities and persons living in host communities have found that refugees have better health outcomes. However, data that compares utilization of health services between refugees and the host population, and across refugee settlements, countries and regions is limited. The paper will address this information gap. The analysis in this paper uses data from the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) Health Information System (HIS). Methods. Data about settlement populations and the use of outpatient health services were exported from the UNHCR health information system database. Tableau Desktop was used to explore the data. STATA was used for data cleaning and statistical analysis. Differences in various indicators of the use of health services by region, gender, age groups, and status (host national vs. refugee population) were analyzed for statistical significance using generalized estimating equation models that adjusted for correlated data within refugee settlements over time. Results: Eighty-one refugee settlements were included in this study and an average population of 1.53 million refugees was receiving outpatient health services between 2008 and 2009. The crude utilization rate among refugees is 2.2 visits per person per year across all settlements. The refugee utilization rate in Asia (3.5) was higher than in Africa on average (1.8). Among refugees, females have a statistically significant higher utilization rate than males (2.4 visits per person per year vs. 2.1). The proportion of new outpatient attributable to refugees is higher than that attributable to host nationals. In the Asian settlements, only 2% outpatient visits, on average, were attributable to host community members. By contrast, in Africa, the proportion of new outpatient (OPD) visits by host nationals was 21% on average; in many Ugandan settlements, the proportion of outpatient visits attributable to host community members was higher than that for refugees. There was no statistically significant difference between the size of the male and female populations across refugee settlements. Across all settlements reporting to the UNHCR database, the percent of the refugee population that was less than five years of age is 16% on average. Conclusions: The availability of a centralized database of health information across UNHCR-supported refugee settlements is a rich resource. The SPHERE standard for emergencies of 1-4 visits per person per year appears to be relevant for Asia in the post-emergency phase, but not for Africa. In Africa, a post-emergency standard of 1-2 visits per person per year should be considered. Although it is often assumed that the size of the female population in refugee settlements is higher than males, we found no statistically significant difference between the size of the male and female populations in refugee settlements overall. Another assumption - -that the under-fives make up 20% of the settlement population during the emergency phase - -does not appear to hold for the post-emergency phase; under-fives made up about 16% of refugee settlement populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalConflict and Health
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 14 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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