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Cancer screening inequities in a time of primary care reform: a population-based longitudinal study in Ontario, Canada

Lofters AK, Mark A, Taljaard M, Green ME, Glazier RH, Dahrouge S. BMC Fam Pract. 2018; 19(1):147. Epub 2018 Aug 29.


Background — Primary care has been reformed in recent years in Ontario, Canada, with a move away from traditional fee-for-service to enhanced fee-for-service and capitation-based models. It is unclear how new models have affected disparities in cancer screening. We evaluated whether Ontario’s enhanced fee-for-service model was associated with a change in the gaps in cancer screening for people living with low income and people who are foreign-born.

Methods — We conducted a population-based longitudinal analysis from 2002 to 2013 of Ontario family physicians who transitioned from traditional fee-for-service to enhanced fee-for-service. The binary outcomes of interest were adherence to cervical, breast and colorectal cancer screening recommendations. Outcomes were analyzed using mixed-effects logistic regression. Analyses produced annual odds ratios comparing the odds of being up-to-date for screening among patients in enhanced fee-for-service versus patients in traditional fee-for-service for each social stratum separately. We calculated the ratios of stratum-specific odds ratios to assess whether the transition from traditional to enhanced fee-for-service was associated with a change in screening gaps between immigrants and long-term residents, and between people in the lowest and highest neighbourhood income quintiles.

Results — Throughout the study period, cancer screening was consistently lower among immigrants and among people in the lowest income quintile. Transition to enhanced fee-for-service was generally associated with increased screening uptake for all, however for most years, ratios of ratios were significantly less than 1 for all three cancer screening types, indicating that there was a widening of the screening gap between immigrants and long-term residents and between people living in the lowest vs. highest income quintile associated with transitions.

Conclusion — The transition to enhanced fee-for-service in Ontario was generally associated with a widening of screening inequities for foreign-born and low-income patients.

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