Yet another casualty: Embellished figures distract from serious immigrant healthcare crisis in Norway

Jonathan-healthcarePhoto: Norway Today / Björn Larsson Rosvall / TT / NTB

Figures released in mid-May by the National Institute for Public Health (FHI) have highlighted the dire crisis facing some Pakistani-Norwegians. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) first highlighted the fact that, according to the FHI, Pakistani-born Norwegians suffered hospitalization rates 24 times higher than “ethnic Norwegians.” The national broadcaster issued a “mea culpa” about embellishing the numbers. However, this numerical error should not be allowed to distract from a serious discussion about adequate healthcare (or lack thereof) for the immigrant community.

NRK admits COVID numerical illiteracy…again

On Sunday, May 9, NRK’s nightly Dagsrevyen ran a story about the hospitalization rates of various segments of Norwegian society. Discussing a report released, in December, from the FHI, it claimed that Pakistani-born Norwegians had, during the pandemic, suffered hospitalization rates 24 times higher than “ethnic” Norwegians.

In a follow-up article, on May 10, newspaper Aftenposten double-checked these figures mentioned by NRK. It seems that, for the second time in a month, the national broadcaster had stated wrong figures.

Though Pakistani-born Norwegians do have higher hospitalization rates than ethnic Norwegians, the rates were simply wrong. Of the 2042 Norwegians infected that were born in Pakistan, only 200 ended up in hospital. This is a rate of 9.8% which is 2.65 (not 24) times higher than the 3.7% hospitalization rates for “ethnic Norwegians.” To put it simply, NRK inflated the figures almost tenfold, according to Aftenposten.

Actual figures still show healthcare an issue for Pakistani Norwegians

That the national broadcaster could be so sloppy in not adequately fact-checking, for the second time in a month, is alarming. However, the real issue here is the almost 3 times higher hospitalization rate of some Pakistani Norwegians than “ethnic Norwegians.” How can this be the case?
For many in this category, age, underlying health issues, and familial structures have caused this rate.

Many of those Pakistan-born Norwegians who have wound up in the hospital are some of the vanguards of Pakistani immigration to Norway which stretches back over half a century. Helsenorge lists people aged between 66-80 years old as a group with moderate to increase risk levels of side effects of COVID-19.

Underlying health issues have also played a part in the increased hospitalization of many Pakistani Norwegians. These issues can range from chronic diseases affecting the liver, kidney, or heart to other diseases like diabetes or obesity. Many elderly Pakistani Norwegians have grown up in a country that did not possess the social welfare and healthcare that Norway is famous worldwide for.

Most importantly, perhaps, is the familial unit that many Pakistani Norwegians possess. Unlike many, so-called, “ethnic Norwegians,” many Pakistani-born Norwegians live in a multi-generational family unit. With a larger number of people, they are in daily contact with the changes of infection increase.

Finally, the question must be asked whether all forms of government, the healthcare system, and even local doctors have both informed these people well enough and helped to combat the spread of fake information and conspiracy theories about COVID. With some having limited Norwegian language skills, was enough done to ensure all the correct information was spread throughout this tight-knit community?

The area of Grønland in Oslo has a large proportion of immigrants, among the largest in the country. Photo: Tore Meek / NTB scanpix

More effort required before rates could increase

The vaccination rollout in Norway has been steadily gathering pace, in recent weeks, but less than 10% of the population is now fully vaccinated. A new Indian mutation has been wreaking havoc throughout much of the subcontinent, it has now recently found its way to Norway.

A recent article in Aftenposten, written by two chief physicians and a doctor, has highlighted that people of South Asian descent may be genetically more inclined to more severe side effects of the coronavirus. The already high hospitalization rate could indeed become higher if left unchecked.

It is only in recent weeks that the media has highlighted the plight of healthcare for the immigrant community. What is needed is for the government to work alongside leaders in the local community to reinforce
the proper protocols, information, safety, and medical advice to help those in need.

With segments of the immigrant community not having the political or media clout that others do, more has to be done by all those responsible in order to help this lurking crisis. Working in, and with, these communities to provide proper information and healthcare is vital if Norway wants to reopen society soon and stop the flow of hospitalizations.

That a small segment of society could be allowed to suffer like this, through a lack of information and advice, shows that more is needed, from the public sector, to help those most vulnerable.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Norway Today unless specifically stated.

About the author:

Jonathan is a lover of the written word. He believes the best way to combat this polarization of news and politics, in our time, is by having a balanced view. Both sides of the story are equally important. He also enjoys traveling and live music.

Source: #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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