JOURNAL ARTICLE

The contribution of geography to disparities in preventable hospitalisations between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians

Timothy C Harrold, Deborah A Randall, Michael O Falster, Sanja Lujic, Louisa R Jorm
PloS One 2014, 9 (5): e97892
24859265

OBJECTIVES: To quantify the independent roles of geography and Indigenous status in explaining disparities in Potentially Preventable Hospital (PPH) admissions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Analysis of linked hospital admission data for New South Wales (NSW), Australia, for the period July 1 2003 to June 30 2008.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Age-standardised admission rates, and rate ratios adjusted for age, sex and Statistical Local Area (SLA) of residence using multilevel models.

RESULTS: PPH diagnoses accounted for 987,604 admissions in NSW over the study period, of which 3.7% were for Indigenous people. The age-standardised PPH admission rate was 76.5 and 27.3 per 1,000 for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people respectively. PPH admission rates in Indigenous people were 2.16 times higher than in non-Indigenous people of the same age group and sex who lived in the same SLA. The largest disparities in PPH admission rates were seen for diabetes complications, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and rheumatic heart disease. Both rates of PPH admission in Indigenous people, and the disparity in rates between Indigenous than non-Indigenous people, varied significantly by SLA, with greater disparities seen in regional and remote areas than in major cities.

CONCLUSIONS: Higher rates of PPH admission among Indigenous people are not simply a function of their greater likelihood of living in rural and remote areas. The very considerable geographic variation in the disparity in rates of PPH admission between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people indicates that there is potential to reduce unwarranted variation by characterising outlying areas which contribute the most to this disparity.

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