Performing up to Nordic principles? Geographic and socioeconomic equity in ambulatory care sensitive conditions among older adults in capital areas of Denmark, Finland and Sweden in 2000–2015

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Fulltext

    Final published version, 3.17 MB, PDF document

Background: Denmark, Finland and Sweden pursue equity in health for their citizens through universal health care. However, it is unclear if these services reach the older adult population equally across different socioeconomic positions or living areas. Thus, we assessed geographic and socioeconomic equity in primary health care (PHC) performance among the older adults in the capital areas of Denmark (Copenhagen), Finland (Helsinki) and Sweden (Stockholm) in 2000–2015. Hospitalisations for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC) were applied as a proxy for PHC performance. Methods: We acquired individual level ACSCs for those aged ≥ 45 in 2000–2015 from national hospitalisation registers. To identify whether the disparities varied by age, we applied three age groups (those aged 45–64, 65–75 and ≥ 75). Socioeconomic disparities in ACSCs were described with incidence rate ratios (IRR) and annual rates by education, income and living-alone; and then analysed with biennial concentration indices by income. Geographic disparities were described with biennial ACSC rates by small areas and analysed with two-level Poisson multilevel models. These models provided small area estimates of IRRs of ACSCs in 2000 and their slopes for development over time, between which Pearson correlations were calculated within each capital area. Finally, these models were adjusted for income to distinguish between geographic and socioeconomic disparities. Results: Copenhagen had the highest IRR of ACSCs among those aged 45–64, and Helsinki among those aged ≥ 75. Over time IRRs decreased among those aged ≥ 45, but only in Helsinki among those aged ≥ 75. All concentration indices slightly favoured the affluent population but in Stockholm were mainly non-significant. Among those aged ≥ 75, Pearson correlations were low in Copenhagen (-0.14; p = 0.424) but high in both Helsinki (-0.74; < 0.001) and Stockholm (-0.62; < 0.001) – with only little change when adjusted for income. Among those aged ≥ 45 the respective correlations were rather similar, except for a strong correlation in Copenhagen (-0.51, 0.001) after income adjustment. Conclusions: While socioeconomic disparities in PHC performance persisted among older adults in the three Nordic capital areas, geographic disparities narrowed in both Helsinki and Stockholm but persisted in Copenhagen. Our findings suggest that the Danish PHC incorporated the negative effects of socio-economic segregation to a lesser degree.

Original languageEnglish
Article number835
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.

    Research areas

  • Equity in health care, Geographic disparities, Health service research, International comparison, Nordic countries, Primary health care, Register-based study, Socioeconomic disparities

ID: 363259149