OBJECTIVES: Health region differences in immigration patterns and premature mortality rates exist in Ontario, Canada. This study used linked population-based databases to describe the regional proportion of immigrants in the context of provincial health region variation in premature mortality.
METHODS: We analyzed all adult premature deaths in Ontario from 1992 to 2012 using linked population files, Canadian census, and death registry databases. Geographic boundaries were analyzed according to 14 health service regions, known as Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). We assessed the role of immigrant status and regional proportion of immigrants in the context of these health region variations and assessed the contribution using sex-specific multilevel negative binomial models, accounting for age, individual- and area-level immigration, and area-level material deprivation.
RESULTS: We observed significant premature mortality variation among health service regions in Ontario between 1992 and 2012. Average annual rates ranged across LHINs from 3.03 to 6.40 per 1000 among males and 2.04 to 3.98 per 1000 among females. The median rate ratio (RR) decreased for men from 1.14 (95% CI 1.06, 1.19) to 1.07 (95% CI 1.00, 1.11) after adjusting for year, age, area-based material deprivation, and individual- and area-level immigration, and among females reduced from 1.13 (95% CI 1.05, 1.18) to 1.04 (95% CI 1.00, 1.05). These adjustments explained 84.1% and 94.4% of the LHIN-level variation in males and females respectively. Reduced premature mortality rates were associated with immigrants compared with those for long-term residents in the fully adjusted models for both males 0.43 (95% CI 0.42, 0.44) and females 0.45 (0.44, 0.46).
CONCLUSION: The findings demonstrate that health region differences in premature mortality in Ontario are in part explained by individual-level effects associated with the health advantage of immigrants, as well as contextual area-level effects that are associated with regional differences in the immigrant population. These factors should be considered in addition to health system factors when looking at health region variation in premature deaths.