Background: Aboriginals in Canada bear a disproportionately higher burden of some chronic illnesses than nonaboriginals. Although there is a greater prevalence of smoking, poor housing, and overcrowding in aboriginal than nonaboriginal communities, the rates of office and emergency visits for asthma and COPD among aboriginals are not well known.
Study objective: To determine whether aboriginals require higher rates of asthma and COPD emergency and office visits than nonaboriginals.
Setting: Population-based cohort of people residing in Alberta, Canada (population 2.8 million) between April 1, 1996, and March 31, 1997.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Results: We observed that aboriginals were 2.1 times (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0 to 2.2) and 1.6 times (95% CI, 1.6 to 1.6) more likely to have an emergency and office visit for asthma or COPD, respectively, when compared to age-matched and sex-matched nonaboriginals. However, they were 55% (95% CI, 52 to 58%) less likely to see a specialist and 66% (95% CI, 63 to 70%) less likely to undergo spirometry than nonaboriginals.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that aboriginals bear a disproportionately higher burden of asthma and COPD than nonaboriginals. However, lower use of spirometry and specialist services suggests that there might be access barriers to quality health care for aboriginals in Canada.