Health of undocumented migrants in primary care in Switzerland

Author(s) : Yves Jackson, Adeline Paignon, Hans Wolff, Noelia Delicado

Source : https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0201313

Abstract:

Background

Undocumented migrants endure adverse living conditions while facing barriers to access healthcare. Evidence is lacking regarding their healthcare needs, notably in regards to chronic diseases. Our goal was to investigate health conditions in undocumented migrants attended in primary care setting.

Methods

This study was conducted at the primary care outpatient clinic, Geneva University Hospitals, Switzerland. We retrospectively recorded and coded all medical conditions of a random sample of 731 undocumented migrants using the International Classification of Primary Care, 2nd version (ICPC-2). We dichotomized conditions as chronic or non-chronic and considered multimorbidity in the presence of three or more chronic conditions.

Results

Participants originated from 72 countries and were mainly female (65.5%) with a mean age of 42.4 (standard deviation [SD]: 11.4) years. They presented a mean of 2.9 (SD: 2.1; range: 1–17) health conditions. In multivariable analysis, the number of conditions was associated with female gender (p = 0.011) and older age (p <0.001), but not with origin (p = 0.373). The body systems most frequently affected were endocrine, metabolic and nutritional (n = 386; 18.4%), musculoskeletal (n = 308, 14.7%) and digestive (n = 266, 12.8%). Hypertension (17.9%; 95% CI: 15.2%, 29.9%), obesity or overweight (16%; 95% CI: 13.4%, 18.9%) and gastric problems (14.1%; 95% CI: 11.6%, 16.8%) were most prevalent. Overall, 71.8% (95% CI: 68.5%, 75%) participants had at least one chronic condition while 20% (95% CI: 17.2%, 23.1%) had three or more. In multivariable analysis, age (p <0.001) was the only predictor of presenting at least one or three or more chronic conditions.

Conclusions

Undocumented migrants present multiple health problems in primary care settings and bear an important burden of chronic diseases. The extent of multimorbidity highlights the need to provide and facilitate the access to comprehensive and long-term primary healthcare services.

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