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Low-income Hispanics and blacks use alternative health care as a substitute for conventional care

A study of low-income minorities in Los Angeles public housing communities found that financial strain and less access to medical services among blacks and Hispanics are important factors driving their higher use of alternative health care to treat sickness and as a substitute for conventional care. The findings are based on a survey of members of 1,394 households in three public housing communities in Los Angeles County. A total of 287 households completed the interview for a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS14022).

Four factors were associated with more frequent use of alternative health care to substitute for conventional care: diminished belief that powerful individuals such as health care professionals control one's health, greater perception of racial discrimination, more financial strain, and reduced access to health care. Perceived racial discrimination was the strongest correlate for each type of alternative health care use.

Prayer was the form of alternative health care most often used, followed by traditional remedies, over-the-counter medication, home remedies, and herbal remedies. Also, 20 percent of those interviewed consulted a spiritual healer; 10 percent and 5 percent consulted with a priest/pastor and/or a psychic, respectively; and 5 percent consulted a herbalist. More than 50 percent used over-the-counter medications; yet three out of four reported that they had never used vitamin therapy for prevention, treatment, or sickness.

More details are in "Alternative healthcare use in the under-served population," by Mohsen Bazargan, Ph.D., Keith Norris, M.D., Shahrzad Bazargan-Hejazi, Ph.D., and others, in the Autumn 2005 Ethnicity & Disease 15, pp. 531-539.

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