Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ethnicity and American Health Care

The concept that different ethnicities view their health care experiences in very different ways is one that just keeps surfacing. Less than a month ago, I was posting about the inadequacies of American health care as seen from the perspective of our country's Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Now Kevin Freking of the Associated Press examines the issue.

Before he digs down into the hard numbers, Freking notes that there has long been the view amongst researchers that improved patient perception of care is extremely important and can influence the outcome of health care issues. The reasoning is that if someone has a bad experience with their provider, they will tend to spend less time with that provider. Negative interactions can also contribute to poor communication between the patient and their medical professional (a subject I addressed in my post a month ago).

The foundation of the article is a survey done by researchers from Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 4,334 adults were interviewed last year and asked a variety of questions such as how quickly were they able to get appointments when injured and whether the doctor explained things to them in a way they could understand.

The results show an average of 10 - 20% percent lower positive responses from ethnic minorities.

When it came to getting an appointment, about 63 percent of whites were able to get an appointment on the same day or the next day after they became sick or injured. That percentage dropped to 42 percent for Cuban-Americans and 39 percent for African-Americans born in the Caribbean.
One major difference in how this particular study was conducted is that it used much more detailed categories. Prior studies of ethnic disparity in health care looked at the major ethnic groups, even though there can be marked differences between members of the same group due to country of origin. The Harvard study aimed a microscope at these groups, breaking them down into smaller cultural subsets. Instead of surveying all African Americans as a single ethnicity, the study broke them down into three sub groups based on country of birth: Caribbean, African, or American born.
Dr. Anne Beal, assistant vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, said the latest study results are consistent with previous research of how minority patients view the quality of their health care. She said perception is reality when it comes to patients being treated with respect.

"Because the findings are so consistent, it's not something where we can say it's just about the patients," Beal said. "They are reporting their experiences and the results should be taken seriously."
SOURCE: "Health Views Differ Along Ethnic Lines " 03/10/08
photo from Louisville African American Think Tank's Health Summit (Feb 8-10, 2008) courtesy of Sprigley, used under this Creative Commons license

1 comment:

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