A narrative synthesis scoping review of life course domains within health service utilisation frameworks [version 1; peer review: 2 approved]

Background: Current thinking in health recognises the influence of early life experiences (health and otherwise) on later life outcomes. The life course approach has been embedded in the work of the World Health Organisation since the Ageing and Health programme was established in 1995. Yet there has been limited debate on the relevancy of a life course lens to understanding health service utilisation.

Aim: The aim of the review was twofold. Firstly, identify existing healthcare utilisation frameworks other than the dominant Andersen’s behavioural model currently in use. Secondly, to identify if current frameworks incorporate the advocated life course perspective in understanding health service utilisation.
Methods: A scoping review of PubMed, Cinahl Plus, Emerald, PsycINFO, Web of Knowledge and Scopus was conducted. Data extraction used a framework approach with meta-synthesis guided by the four domains of the life course proposed by Elder (1979): human agency, location, temporality and relationships, and interdependencies.

Results: A total of 551 papers were identified, with 70 unique frameworks (other than Andersen’s Behavioural Model) meeting the inclusion criteria and included in the review.

Conclusion: To date there has been limited explicit discussion of health service utilisation from a life course perspective. The current review highlights a range of frameworks that draw on aspects of the life course, but have been used with this perspective in mind. The life course approach highlights important gaps in understanding and assessing health service utilisation (HSU), such as utilisation over time. HSU is a complex phenomenon and applying a structured framework from a life course perspective would be of benefit to researchers, practitioners and policy makers.