New report finds major disparities in preventive healthcare

There are significant disparities when it comes to preventive health services for some racial and socioeconomic groups, according to a report released this morning from the United Health Foundation.

Inequities exist in the use of preventive care based on income, education, geography, race and ethnicity, according to the study, which looked at preventive measures across all 50 states in terms of access to care, immunizations and prevention of chronic disease.

The study found, for instance, that only 59 percent of Hispanic adults report having a dedicated healthcare provider compared to more than 76 percent of black adults and 82 percent of white adults.

"Hispanics represent one of the largest growing subpopulations in the U.S. today and could potentially face serious health challenges in the coming years if we don't find a way to improve their access to and use of preventive healthcare services," said Reed Tuckson, M.D., external senior medical adviser to the Foundation, in an executive summary released with the report.

Overall, nearly 77 percent of adults said they have a dedicated healthcare provider, although that varied among states, with a high of 89.3 percent in Massachusetts and a low of 64.8 percent in Nevada. Slightly more than 65 percent of adults said they had visited a dentist or dental clinic in the last year.

The study also found that college-educated women and people who make more than $75,000 a year were more likely to have a primary care provider. Another analysis released earlier this week found income is the biggest factor in health disparities, with life expectancy varying up to 30 years between the richest and poorest counties across the U.S.

In terms of immunization rates, the study found they vary among states and generally lag behind the government's Healthy People 2020 goals. Childhood immunization rates vary from 84.7 percent in Maine to 63.4 percent in West Virginia.

The report concluded that access to healthcare is critical to overall prevention of health problems, as states where residents had good access to care also performed well on a wide range of preventive health metrics. If population-level healthcare disparities were eliminated, up to 80,000 early deaths in the United States would be prevented each year, as FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the full report
- check out an executive summary (.pdf)

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