Perceived Discrimination May Reduce Flu Vaccination Rates Among Minority Populations

May 26th 2016
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor

Patients who belong to racial or ethnic minority groups are less likely to receive an annual flu shot, possibly because of perceived discrimination.

Patients who belong to racial or ethnic minority groups are less likely to receive an annual flu shot, possibly because of perceived discrimination.

In an effort to better understand the potential impact of discrimination on health outcomes, researchers recently conducted a survey of more than 8000 white, black, and Hispanic patients with chronic diseases.

Based on the participants’ responses to the one of the survey’s questions (“Do you think there was ever a time when you would have gotten better medical care if you had belonged to a different race or ethnic group?”), the research team found that 7% of respondents had either experienced or perceived some form of discrimination when seeking health care.

Alarmingly, only 32% of patients who felt that they experienced discrimination received a flu shot, compared with 60% of those who didn’t report discrimination. Influenza vaccine uptake was particularly low among non-Hispanic black participants.

The researchers estimated that perceived discrimination could account for up to 16% of the racial and ethnic disparity in flu vaccination. However, they acknowledged that discrimination no longer appeared to be a significant factor in immunization rates after making adjustments for other determinants of health services.

Factors linked to a higher probability of vaccination in the study participants include having a college degree, not being a current smoker, and trusting the information given by a provider.

The researchers suggested that differences in vaccination rates among ethnic and racial groups could be related to any number of contributing factors, including disparities in access to care, a lack of trust in health care professions, and unconscious biases among providers. They noted that larger studies may be needed to establish the reasons for lower immunization rates among minority populations.

Although their research proved inconclusive, they nevertheless emphasized the importance of understanding and working to close these gaps in health care.

“Racial and ethnic disparities in health care exist broadly in the United States and have significant implications,” the study authors wrote. “They erode trust in health professionals, hinder the ability of disadvantaged racial/ethnic groups to advance economically and professionally, threaten public health efforts to improve the nation’s health, worsen national health care expenditures, and generally tear at the nation’s social fabric pertaining to perception of racial discrimination.”

The study results were published inMedical Care.

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