Access to medical care and its association with physical injury in adolescents: a cross-national analysis

Valerie F. Pagnotta*, Nathan King, Peter D. Donnelly, Wendy Thompson, Sophie D. Walsh, Michal Molcho, Kwok Ng, Marta Malinowska-Cieslik, William Pickett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background Strong variations in injury rates have been documented cross-nationally. Historically, these have been attributed to contextual determinants, both social and physical. We explored an alternative, yet understudied, explanation for variations in adolescent injury reporting-that varying access to medical care is, in part, responsible for cross-national differences.

Methods Age-specific and gender-specific rates of medically treated injury (any, serious, by type) were estimated by country using the 2013/2014 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study (n=209 223). Available indicators of access to medical care included: (1) the Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ; 39 countries); (2) the Universal Health Service Coverage Index (UHC; 37 countries) and (3) hospitals per 100 000 (30 countries) then physicians per 100 000 (36 countries). Ecological analyses were used to relate injury rates and indicators of access to medical care, and the proportion of between-country variation in reported injuries attributable to each indicator.

Results Adolescent injury risks were substantial and varied by country and sociodemographically. There was little correlation observed between national level injury rates and the HAQ and UHC indices, but modest associations between serious injury and physicians and hospitals per 100 000. Individual indicators explained up to 9.1% of the total intercountry variation in medically treated injuries and 24.6% of the variation in serious injuries.

Conclusions Cross-national variations in reported adolescent serious injury may, in part, be attributable to national differences in access to healthcare services. Interpretation of cross-national patterns of injury and their potential aetiology should therefore consider access to medical care as a plausible explanation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-49
Number of pages8
JournalInjury Prevention
Issue number1
Early online date27 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • Cross sectional study
  • Ecological study
  • Epidemiology
  • Adolescent
  • Health services
  • Child
  • Global burden
  • Childhood injury
  • United States
  • Health care
  • Countries
  • Mortality
  • Determinants
  • Inequalities
  • Morbidity
  • Disease


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