The Knowledge and Use of Health Services in Greece by Immigrants

Background: Parity in the access of immigrants to health services is a fundamental factor in their incorporation into Greek society and in the achievement of optimal public health, and is an element of the respect for the human rights for equality in health care. Limited knowledge of the health services is a significant obstacle to their use by immigrants. Aim: Assessment of the knowledge about and use of health services in Greece by immigrants. Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted between 1 January 2012 and 31 March 2012. The study population consisted of 191 immigrants (88 males, 103 females) who had immigrated to Athens or Thessaloniki in the past 10 years, sampled by the snowball sampling technique. Data collection was made using a questionnaire that was specially developed for this study by the researchers, based on the relevant literature. Statistical analysis included x² test, x² test for trend, Fisher’s exact test, t-test and analysis of variance. Results: Of the immigrants, 20.4% stated that they know about the health services in Greece to a good/very good degree, while most of them (60.2%) stated that their knowledge is moderate. Almost half of the participants (49.7%) had used health services in the last 12 months in Greece; specifically 28.3% had visited an emergency department, 17.3% had visited private physicians and 17.3% private dentists. In addition, 62% of the participants, in the last 12 months in Greece, had needed at least once to use health services but could not afford to. In all, 64% stated that they trust health professionals in Greece. Improved ability to understand (p<0.001) and to speak (p<0.001) the Greek language, and increased length of stay in Greece (p<0.001) were associated with better knowledge of the health services. In addition, a higher monthly family income was associated with a decrease in difficulties of access to the health services (p<0.001). Conclusions: Better knowledge of recent immigrants concerning the health services in Greece is needed. Special care should be taken in order to increase the fluency of immigrants in the Greek language, as poor ability to understand and speak Greek is the most significant barrier of immigrants to their access to health services. Systematic effort is necessary in order to improve the access of immigrants to health services in Greece.