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Open Access Research article

Registration for public drug benefits across areas of differing ethnic composition in British Columbia, Canada

Vivian W Leong12*, Steve Morgan12, Sabrina T Wong13, Gillian E Hanley12 and Charlyn Black12

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

2 School of Population & Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

3 School of Nursing, University of British Columba, Vancouver, Canada

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:171  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-171

Published: 17 June 2010



In 2003, the government of British Columbia, Canada introduced a universal drug benefit plan to cover drug costs that are high relative to household income. Residents were required to register in order to be eligible for the income-based benefits. Given past research suggesting that registration processes may pose an access barrier to certain subpopulations, we aimed to determine whether registration rates varied across small geographic areas that differed in ethnic composition.


Using linked population-based administrative databases and census data, we conducted multivariate logistic regression analyses to determine whether the probability of registration for the public drug plan varied across areas of differing ethnic composition, controlling for household-level predisposing, enabling and needs factors.


The adjusted odds of registration did not differ across regions characterized by high concentrations (greater than 30%) of residents identifying as North American, British, French or other European. Households located in areas with concentrations of residents identifying as an Asian ethnicity had the highest odds of program registration: Chinese (OR = 1.21, CI: 1.19-1.23) and South Asian (OR = 1.19, CI: 1.16-1.22). Despite this positive finding, households residing in areas with relatively high concentrations of recent immigrants had slightly lower adjusted odds of registering for the program (OR = 0.97, CI: 0.95-0.98).


This study identified ethnic variation in registration for a new public drug benefit program in British Columbia. However, unlike previous studies, the variation observed did not indicate that areas with high concentrations of certain ethnicities experienced disadvantages. Potential explanations are discussed.