Racial/Ethnic Differences in Use of Health Care Services for Diabetes Management

Raeven Faye Chandler, Shannon M Monnat
Health Education & Behavior: the Official Publication of the Society for Public Health Education 2015, 42 (6): 783-92
Research demonstrates consistent racial/ethnic disparities in access to and use of health care services for a variety of chronic conditions. Yet we know little about whether these disparities exist for use of health care services for diabetes management. Racial/ethnic minorities disproportionately suffer from diabetes, complications from diabetes, and diabetes-related mortality. Proper diabetes management can reduce the risk of complications and premature mortality. Using a large national data set (N = 37,705) of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American U.S. adults aged 65 years and older who have been diagnosed with diabetes, we examine three specific types of health care provider (HCP) use for diabetes management: number of times seen by a health care professional for diabetes, number of times feet have been checked by a health care professional, and number of visits for a glycosylated hemoglobin check. We found that net of controls for a variety of demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, Blacks and Hispanics had significantly more visits to a HCP for their diabetes and significantly more glycosylated hemoglobin checks than Whites, and Blacks and Native Americans had significantly more HCP feet checks than Whites. Our results suggest that the reduced access to health care services traditionally found among racial/ethnic minorities does not hold for access to health care services for diabetes management, where racial/ethnic minority diabetics are actually more likely to use care than are White diabetics. Future research should examine whether higher use of health care services for diabetes among racial/ethnic minorities is due to greater disease severity among racial/ethnic minorities than among non-Hispanic Whites.

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