Access and barriers to health care in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2013: findings from a national multistage survey

Published June 12, 2015, in BMJ Open (opens in a new window)


We analyzed data from a large household survey to identify barriers to health care in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


The Saudi Health Interview Survey (SHIS) is a national multistage survey of individuals aged 15 years or older. The survey combined a household questionnaire and a laboratory blood analysis. We used a backward elimination multivariate logistic regression model to measure association between (1) diagnosis, (2) treatment, and (3) control of hypertension or diabetes and sociodemographic factors, history of diagnosis with chronic conditions, and type of, and distance traveled to, the clinic last visited.


Between April and June 2013, a total of 10,735 participants completed SHIS and were invited to the local health clinics. Among hypertensive individuals, women, older individuals, and those previously diagnosed with diabetes and hypercholesterolemia were more likely to have been diagnosed with hypertension than their counterparts. Among participants diagnosed with hypertension, the likelihood of being treated increased with age and education. The likelihood of having uncontrolled blood pressure despite treatment increased with education and a history of diagnosis with hypercholesterolemia. Type of clinic visited and distance traveled to last clinic visit were not associated with diagnosis or treatment of hypertension or control of blood pressure. Similar factors were associated with the likelihood of diagnosis and treatment among individuals with diabetes. Having uncontrolled glycated hemoglobin levels, despite treatment, was less common among those who visited governmental clinics other than those of the Ministry of Health, compared with those who visited Ministry clinics.


Our findings highlight the importance of individual characteristics in health care-seeking practices rather than system-based potential barriers. Saudis seem to mostly seek health care when sick. Hence, the Saudi Ministry of Health needs to implement a comprehensive plan including health education and investigations, to understand the barriers and bottlenecks to health care-seeking behavior.

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El Bcheraoui C, Tuffaha M, Daoud F, Kravitz H, AlMazroa MA, Al Saeedi M, Memish ZA, Basulaiman, Al Rabeeah AA, Mokdad AH. Access and barriers to health care in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2013: findings from a national multistage survey. BMJ Open. 2015;5(6):e007801. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-007801.