NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 16, 2007

Preventive medical care saves lives, but minorities aren't getting the message, and continue to lag behind whites in using preventive services, according to two new studies by the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The researchers found:

  • Hispanics age 65 and older are 55 percent less likely to have been vaccinated against pneumococcal disease than whites
  • Hispanics 50 and older are also 39 percent less likely to be up-to-date on colon cancer screening
  • Hispanic smokers are 55 percent less likely to get assistance from a health professional to quit smoking.

Other findings:

  • Asian men 40 and older, and women 50 and older, are 40 percent less likely than whites to use aspirin to prevent heart disease.
  • Asians also had the lowest use of breast, cervical and colon cancer screening.
  • If the 42 percent of blacks 50 and older who are up-to-date on their colon cancer screenings were increased to 90 percent, 1,800 lives would be saved.
  • Blacks have higher screening rates for colon and breast cancer than Hispanics and Asians, but also higher mortality rates for those conditions.

Previous studies have found disparities in minority access to preventive care, but most have focused on socioeconomic reasons -- that they didn't get screenings and other care because they were low-income, uninsured or underinsured.  But one of the M.D. Anderson studies, which didn't focus on cost found that minorities use preventative services at the lowest rates, even after adjusting for socioeconomic reasons.  It said many believe they're not at risk, don't know about recommended services or doubt the services' effectiveness.

Source: Todd Ackerman, "Minorities lag in preventive health care," Houston Chronicle, August 15, 2007.


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