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Healthcare use and system costs among pediatric refugees in Canada


Background — Resettled refugees land in Canada through 3 sponsorship models with similar health insurance and financial supports but differences in how resettlement is facilitated. We examined whether health system utilization, costs, and aggregate 1-year morbidity differed by resettlement model.

Methods — Population-based matched cohort study in Ontario, 2008 to 2018, including pediatric (0–17 years) resettled refugees and matched Ontario-born peers and categorized refugees by resettlement model: (1) private sponsorship (PSRs), (2) Blended Visa Office-Referred program (BVORs), and (3) government-assisted refugee (GAR). Primary outcomes were health system utilization and costs in year 1 in Canada. Multivariable logistic regression was used to test the associations between sponsorship model and major illnesses.

Results — We included 23 287 resettled refugees (13 360 GARs, 1544 BVORs, 8383 PSRs) and 93 148 matched Ontario-born. Primary care visits were highest among GARs and lowest in PSRs (median visits [interquartile range], GARs 4[2–6]; BVORs 3[2–5]; PSRs 3[2–5]; P <.001). Emergency department visits and hospitalizations were more common among GARs and BVORs versus PSRs (emergency department: GARs 19.2%; BVORs 23.4%; PSRs 13.8%; hospitalizations: GARs 2.5%; BVORs 3.2%; PSRs 1.1%, P <.001). Mean 1-year health system costs were highest among GARs (mean [standardized difference] $1278 [$7475]) and lowest among PSRs ($555 [$2799]; Ontario-born $851 [9226]). Compared with PSRs, GARs (adjusted odds ratio 1.63, 95% confidence interval 1.47–1.81) and BVORs (adjusted odds ratio 1.52, 95% confidence interval 1.26–1.84) were more likely to have major illnesses.

Conclusions — Healthcare use and morbidity of PSRs suggests they are healthier and less costly than GARs and BVOR model refugees. Despite a greater intensity of healthcare utilization than Ontario-born, overall excess demand on the health system for all resettled refugee children is low.



Saunders NR, Gandhi S, Wanigaratne S, Lu H, Stukel TA, Glazier R, Rayner J, Guttmann A. Pediatrics. 2023; 151(1):e2022057441. Epub 2022 Dec 2.

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