219798 Trends in Public Awareness of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the United States (1999-2009)

Monday, November 8, 2010 : 11:30 AM - 11:45 AM

Jennifer Benz, PhD , Public Health Research Department, NORC at the University of Chicago, Marblehead, MA
Valerie A. Welsh, MS, CHES , U.S. Office of Minority Health, Rockville, MD
Oscar Espinosa, MA , National Opinion Research Center, Bethesda, MD
Margrethe Montgomery, MA , Public Health Research Department, NORC at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Angela Fontes, PhD , Statistics and Methodology, NORC at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Although many aspects of health in the U.S. have improved over the past several decades, significant racial and ethnic disparities remain. Public perceptions—and misperceptions—about disparities can influence the actions of policy makers in addressing the problem. This study asks: To what extent is the U.S. public aware of the existence of racial and ethnic differences in health status and health care? Has the level of public awareness in the U.S. changed between 1999 and 2009? Do Americans differ by race and ethnicity in their perception of how race and ethnicity affect their own health status and health care as well as that of others? Study Design: A national random sample of 2,996 landline telephone interviews with adults age 18 and over was conducted 2009. Data collection replicated a 1999 Kaiser study to establish trends. The sample includes 1,218 Whites, 806 African Americans, 620 Hispanics/Latinos, and 145 Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders. Principal Findings: Awareness has increased over the last ten years, albeit at a modest rate. Sixty percent (60%) of Americans are aware of racial and ethnic disparities facing African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos. This represents a statistically significant, albeit modest, increase from the 55 percent of Americans who were aware of these same disparities in 1999. Awareness of key health indicators is low among affected racial and ethnic minority groups. These indicators include HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and infant mortality. For example, the African American population sees ten times as many new cases of AIDS as Whites. However, only 36 percent of respondents believe that African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, fewer than one half of African Americans are aware of the HIV/AIDS disparity facing their community. African Americans are more likely to perceive disparities affecting their own community and other racial and ethnic groups. African Americans are significantly more likely to perceive disparities between their own racial group and Whites. Conclusions: Findings from the study paint a broad picture of the extent to which the U.S. population is aware of racial and ethnic health disparities, and how these perceptions have changed over the last decade. The data show that people are more aware of long-standing health disparities, such as life expectancy and health insurance coverage. The message that has not reached the general population is that in the U.S., minority populations are disproportionally affected by several serious diseases and conditions like infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
1. Attendees will be able to assess current levels of racial and ethnic health disparities awareness among the general U.S. population. 2. Attendees will be able to list specific health conditions and minority populations for which awareness is particularly low.

Keywords: Vulnerable Populations, Minority Research

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I serve as a lead analyst for multiple public health surveys and I have experience with disparities research, evaluation, and programming.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.