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Primary care and multimorbidity in six Latin American and Caribbean countries



To describe patterns of multimorbidity in six diverse Latin American and Caribbean countries, examine its effects on primary care experiences, and assess its influence on reported overall health care assessments.


Cross-sectional data are from the Inter-American Development Bank's international primary care survey, conducted in 2013/2014, and represent the adult populations of Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama. Robust Poisson regression models were used to estimate the extent to which those with multimorbidity receive adequate and appropriate primary care, have confidence in managing their health condition, and are able to afford needed medical care.


The prevalence of multimorbidity ranged from 17.5% in Colombia to 37.3% in Jamaica. Most of the examined conditions occur along with others, with diabetes and heart disease being the two problems most associated with other conditions. The proportions of adults with high out-of-pocket payments, problems paying their medical bills, seeing multiple doctors, and being in only fair/poor health were higher among those with greater levels of multimorbidity and poorer primary care experiences. Multimorbidity and difficulties with primary care were positively associated with trouble paying for medical care and managing one's conditions. Nonetheless, adults with multimorbidity were more likely to have received lifestyle advice and to be up to date with preventive exams.


Multimorbidity is reported frequently. Providing adequate care for the growing number of such patients is a major challenge facing most health systems, which will require considerable strengthening of primary care along with financial protection for those most in need.

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