Content » Vol 51, Issue 11

Original report

Polio and post-polio syndrome in non-Western immigrants: A new challenge for the healthcare system in Norway

Lillian Vigdis Festvåg, Johan Kvalvik Stanghelle, Nils Erik Gilhus, Per-Ola Rike, Anne-Kristine Schanke
Department of Research, Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, Bjørnemyrveien 11, NO-1450 Nesoddtangen, Norway. E-mail: lillian.festvaag@gmail.com
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2624

Abstract

Objective: To explore the health situation and identify specific health challenges in non-Western immigrants with polio in Norway, by comparing their status with Western immigrants with polio and native Norwegians with polio.
Design: A questionnaire covering demographics, polio history, life satisfaction, medical, psychological and social conditions was answered by 1,408 persons with polio, among them 34 immigrants from non-Western countries and 32 immigrants from Western countries.
Results: The non-Western immigrant polio group had a mean age of 46 years, were highly educated, reported high frequency of mental health problems and only one-third was working. Mean age for contracting polio was 2.8 years. Only 30% was hospitalized in the acute phase and 80% reported severe leg weakness. Use of a powered wheelchair was reported by 72%. Post-polio symptoms had started at a mean age of 31 years. The non-Western immigrant group reported more fatigue, pain and loneliness, and a high proportion reported insufficient assistance from the public health system.
Conclusion: The group of non-Western immigrants with polio in Norway reported more health and social problems than the group of Western immigrants with polio or the native Norwegian group with polio, even though they were younger and more highly educated. Their complex psychological and social situation requires active intervention from the health system, and health professionals need extra skills to deal most effectively with their situation.

Lay Abstract

Immigrants with polio coming to Norway are younger and have a different medical history, social background and health challenges than native Norwegian polio-injured subjects. The aim of this study was to explore the health situation among non-Western immigrants to Norway with polio. A questionnaire covering demographics, polio history, life satisfaction, medical, psychological and social conditions was answered by 34 immigrants from non-Western countries, and compared to Western immigrants with polio and native Norwegians with polio. The immigrant polio group was highly educated, reported a high frequency of mental health problems, and one-third was working. Not more than one-third was hospitalized in the acute phase. The immigrant polio group reported more fatigue, pain and loneliness than the native Norwegian patients. Use of a wheelchair was reported by 7 out of 10, and a high percentage reported insufficient assistance from the public health system. The complex psychological and social situation for non-Western immigrants with polio requires extra consideration from the health system, and health professionals need specialized information in order to provide the most appropriate treatment for these patients.

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