This study investigated whether a move to public housing affects people’s use of healthcare services.
Using administrative data from Manitoba, the number of hospitalizations, general practitioner (GP), specialist and emergency department (ED) visits, and prescription drugs dispensed in the years before and after the housing move-in date (2012/2013) were measured for a public housing and matched cohort. Generalized linear models with generalized estimating equations tested for differences between the cohorts in utilization trends. The data were modeled using Poisson (rate ratio, RR), negative binomial (incident rate ratio, IRR), and binomial (odds ratio, OR) distributions.
GP visits (IRR = 1.04, 95% CI 1.01–1.06) and prescriptions (IRR = 1.04, 95% CI 1.02–1.05) increased, while ED visits (RR = 0.90, 95% CI 0.82–1.00) and hospitalizations (OR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.93–0.96) decreased over time. The public housing cohort had a significantly higher rate of GP visits (IRR = 1.08, 95% CI 1.04–1.13), ED visits (RR = 1.18, 95% CI 1.01–1.37), and prescriptions (IRR = 1.09, 95% CI 1.05–1.13), and was more likely to be hospitalized (OR = 1.39, 95% CI 1.21–1.61) compared to the matched cohort. The rate of inpatient days significantly decreased for the public housing cohort, but did not change for the matched cohort.
Healthcare use changed similarly over time (except inpatient days) for the two cohorts. Public housing provides a basic need to a population who has a high burden of disease and who may not be able to obtain and maintain housing in the private market.