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Gestational diabetes care and outcomes for refugee women: a population-based cohort study

Khan S, Yao Z, Shah BR. Diabet Med. 2017; 34(11):1608-14. Epub 2017 Aug 23.


Aim — To determine the prevalence of adverse clinical outcomes, the rates of healthcare utilization, and the incidence of post-partum Type 2 diabetes in refugees with gestational diabetes (GDM), compared with other immigrants and non-immigrants.

Methods — A population-based cohort study was conducted using healthcare databases in Ontario, Canada. Over 40 000 women with GDM having singleton live births between 2002 and 2014 were identified. We identified GDM adverse outcomes such as macrosomia, pre-eclampsia and respiratory distress syndrome. Antenatal and newborn healthcare utilization were ascertained. Women were then followed for diagnosis of diabetes post-partum.

Results — Both refugees and other immigrants had a lower rate than non-immigrants of many adverse GDM outcomes, including pre-eclampsia [(RR) 0.65, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.44-0.95 and 0.61, 95% CI 0.52-0.72, respectively], preterm birth (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.75-0.995 and 0.85, 95% CI 0.80-0.91, respectively), and respiratory distress syndrome (RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.70-0.97 and 0.78, 95% CI 0.72-0.84, respectively). However, refugees were less likely to attend well-baby care in time for the first routine vaccination (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.88-0.95). Incidence of post-partum diabetes was high in all groups, but refugee women were at increased risk (hazard ratio 1.23, 95% CI 1.11-1.37).

Conclusions — Despite different circumstances leading to migration, refugees have a similar 'healthy immigrant effect' to other immigrants, with respect to adverse GDM outcomes. However, newborns of refugees were less likely to have well-baby care, and refugee women were also at especially high risk of developing diabetes post-partum. These are both important public health issues.

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