November 18, 1996

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -

NEW YORK -- Americans from racial and ethnic minorities have different experiences with the health care system than white Americans -- and knowledge of these discrepancies in care is becoming increasing important in this era of managed health care, says Carol J. Rowland Hogue, Ph.D., director of the Women and Children's Center of the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University. She will speak at a special session on Minority Health Care at this week's meeting of the American Public Health Association.

"Findings presented in this special session offer striking evidence that 1) minority populations differ among themselves as well as with the majority population with respect to access to health care, utilization of services and satisfaction with their experiences; and 2) as ever greater numbers of vulnerable populations enter managed care, the importance grows of assuring social justice for vulnerable populations within the health care system," reports Martha A. Hargraves, Ph.D., Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

The special session highlights the work of public health researchers who analyzed data from the "National Comparative Survey of Minority Health Care," a survey commissioned by the The Commonwealth Fund. Dr. Hogue and Dr. Hargraves were co-principal investigators of the analyses.

During the survey, a cross-section of Americans were queried about "the quality of health care services they had received in the preceding 12 months, any barriers to that care and about health-care related factors that may help explain differences in health status," Dr. Hogue says. Persons surveyed in the comparative analysis included 1,114 white nonHispanic adults, 1,048 African-American adults, 1,001 Hispanic adults and 632 Asian-Americans (205 Chinese-Americans, 201 Korean-Americans and 201 Vietnamese-Americans).

Specific findings presented at the session including the following:
  • "Virtually no whites, but five percent of minority groups, perceived personal or family experiences of ill treatment because of their race or cultural background," reports Vickie M. Mays, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, in her presentation Erasing Inequality in the Health Care of Ethnic Minority Women.

  • "Adults in minority groups have less choice, lower satisfaction and less opportunity to switch providers," reports Lisa E. Harris, M.D., Regenstrief Institute for Health Care, Indiana University School of Medicine, in her presentation Minority Populations' Satisfaction with Services.

  • "...Eighty percent of whites, but only 66 percent of adults in minority groups, reported having a regular doctor or health care professional,. In addition, more minority adults reported very little or no choice of where they receive medical care (24 percent vs. 16 percent of white adults), while at the same time expression less satisfaction with the quality of their providers (46 percent very satisfied vs. 60 percent white adults)," Dr. Harris says.

  • "Dissatisfaction with one's health plan or health insurance is greatest among Chinese (19 percent), Korean (19 percent) and Puerto Rican (18 percent) adults (vs. 13 percent of all minority adults and 14 percent of white adults," Dr. Harris says.

  • "Profiles of adults in minority groups suggest that Koreans are more dissatisfied with their life, feel less happy, and feel very nervous," reports David Williams, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, University of Michigan and Institute for Social Research, in his presentation The Mental and Social Well-being of Minority Populations. "Vietnamese adults are more likely to report having felt 'down in the dumps' or very nervous. Puerto Rican adults are more likely to report having contemplated suicide (eight percent vs. six percent of all adults in minority groups and four percent of white adults)."

  • "...Koreans were more likely than all Asian-Americans (49 percent vs. 28 percent) to choose their doctor on the basis of his/her nationality, race or ethnicity and to be influenced by his/her ability to speak their language (60 percent vs. 46 percent)," reports Dong W. Suh, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum in his presentation Recognizing Specific Needs of Specific Asian-American Groups.

  • "All Asian-Americans were more likely to use alternative types of health care treatment," Mr. Suh says. "Empowerment of Asian-Americans requires recognition and attention to their particular needs."

  • "Cultural differences elucidated by this survey appear to act as mediators of health status, and must be identified by ongoing data systems and incorporated into interventions that include mental and emotional well-being as well as socioeconomic justice," Dr. Hargraves concludes.

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