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Use of the health care system by Ontario First Nations people with diabetes: a population-based study

Shah BR, Slater M, Frymire E, Jacklin K, Sutherland R, Khan S, Walker JD, Green ME. CMAJ Open. 2020; 8(2):E313-8. 2020; May 5 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.9778/cmajo.20200043


Background — First Nations people in Ontario have an increased prevalence of diabetes compared to other people in the province. This study examined use of health care services by First Nations people with diabetes and other people with diabetes in Ontario.

Methods — Using linked health administrative databases, we identified all people in Ontario with diabetes as of Apr. 1, 2014. We identified First Nations people using the Indian Register. We looked at outcomes from Apr. 1, 2014, to Mar. 31, 2015. We determined the proportion of people with a regular family physician and their continuity of care with that physician. We also examined visits with specialists for diabetes care, hospital admissions for ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions, and emergency department visits for hypo- or hyperglycemia.

Results — There were 1 380 529 people diagnosed with diabetes in Ontario as of Apr. 1, 2014, of whom 22 952 (1.7%) were First Nations people. First Nations people were less likely to have a regular family physician (85.3% v. 97.7%) and had lower continuity of care with that physician (mean score for continuity of care 74.6 v. 77.7) than other people in Ontario. They were also less likely to see specialists. First Nations people were more likely to be admitted to hospital for ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions (2.4% v. 1.2%) and to have an emergency department visit for hypo- or hyperglycemia (1.5% v. 0.8%). Disparities were particularly marked for those living in First Nations communities.

Interpretation — First Nations people with diabetes in Ontario had poorer access to and use of primary care than other people with diabetes in the province. These findings may help explain continued disparities in the rates of complications related to diabetes.

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