Social and structural determinants of emergency department use among Arab and Jewish patients in Jerusalem

Shifra Unger, Zvika Orr, Evan Avraham Alpert, Nadav Davidovitch, Ilana Shoham-Vardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: A growing body of research demonstrates that economic conditions and racial and ethnic disparities result in excessive overuse of emergency departments (EDs) by a small group of socioeconomically marginalized residents. Knowledge and understanding of these issues on the part of the healthcare team can promote equality by providing structurally competent care. This study aims to identify the major social and structural factors related to patterns of ED visits by Arab and Jewish patients in Israel, where access to health services is covered by universal national health insurance. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted using questionnaires of ED patients in a tertiary care medical center in Jerusalem. The hospital is the largest of the three EDs in Jerusalem with over 90,000 adult patient visits a year. The sample was stratified by ethnicity, including 257 Jewish patients and 170 Arab patients. The outcome variable was repeat visits for the same reason to the ED within 30 days. Results: There were differences between Jewish and Arab patients’ social and structural characteristics, including health status, socioeconomic status, feeling of safety, and social support. There were also significant differences in some of the characteristics of health service utilization patterns, including ED repeat visits, language barriers when seeking healthcare in the community, and seeking information about medical rights. The variables associated with repeat visits were different between the two groups: among the Arab patients, repeat visits to the ED were associated with concerns about personal safety, whereas among the Jewish patients, they were associated with poverty. Conclusion: The study illustrates the gaps that exist between the Arab and Jewish population in Israel. The findings demonstrated significant differences between populations in both health status and access to health services. In addition, an association was found in each ethnic group between different structural factors and repeat ED requests. This study supports previous theories and findings of the relationship between structural and social factors and patterns of health services utilization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Emergency Department
  • Inequity
  • Israel
  • Repeat Visits
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Structural Competency
  • Structural Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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