Health anxiety & medical care avoidance

There are many reasons why individuals avoid medical care, however, when the avoidance results in a lack of preventative and medical care, individuals are more likely to have inadequate outcomes when it comes to their health. 

A study found that one-third of adults had skipped medical visits that had been deemed necessary. When evaluating the data, they could not pin-point avoidance behavior to one geographical area, socioeconomic status, or demographic — clearly, this is a global issue.

Top three reasons people avoid seeking medical care:

  1. “Low perceived need,” people who believe that their condition or ailment does not necessitate treatment. Most commonly, individuals believed that their condition would get better with time. Another reason was that individuals believed that they did not need routine care because they were not sick at the time. However, routine care is very important in preventing and detecting medical problems. For example, routine care may consist of vaccines, which are used to prevent diseases and illness, check-ups, which allow your provider to evaluate your vital signs, and make any adjustments or recommendations in order to keep you healthy. As we age, we are more prone to develop chronic diseases, cancer, or diabetes, so it is vital to keep up with routine care as we age in order to maintain our health. Unsure of what your routine care should look like? Head over here to view recommendations by age group.
  1. Medical care barriers,” another reason individuals reported not seeking care was because of inconvenient business hours of providers, limiting those who cannot miss work, or have other conflicting responsibilities. Another important factor was the high cost of health care. In the U.S, research shows that about 36% percent of individuals under the age of 45 are uninsured, lack of health insurance is one of the main obstacles for individuals seeking care. The financial burden of co-pays are also a huge barrier for individuals seeking care, in a recent survey of 1,000 people, 91% reported that their deductibles were “somewhat difficult” and 22% reported that theirs were “impossible” to meet.  

How does this affect care? Well, 64% of those surveyed reported that they had avoided medical care because of cost. A study published in the Journal of Health Care Finance sought to evaluate if payment plans had a positive outcome in terms of avoidance behavior. What they found was that patients who utilized payment plans were less likely to avoid medical care and were less likely to be associated with the adverse results of medical debt. Feeling the stress of medical debt? Ask your health care provider about a payment plan for your medical bills to break payments up over time.

  1. “Negative evaluation,” was attributed as the third most common reason why individuals did not seek care. One unfavorable visit to a medical provider can be damaging to the patient/provider relationship. Most commonly, this is attributed to communication issues, the bedside-manor, or the approach of the provider when interacting with the patient. It is important that patients feel that they are being heard during their appointments and have time to ask questions that are important to them. When patients feel as if they are not being heard or understood, they are less likely to trust the advice, recommendations, or treatment that are provided to them.

COVID-19 and Health Care Anxiety

There are many reasons why individuals avoid medical care, and in 2020, we were introduced to another reason: COVID-19. In a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41% of adults by June in the United States had avoided care due to concerns about COVID-19. It was found that individuals with disabilities and those with two or more underlying conditions were more commonly found to avoid care due to COVID-19. 

The CDC has provided guidance for individuals who need to get care for other conditions, recommending an open dialogue with your provider about your concerns, and having at least a 2-week supply of any necessary medications on hand. 

For more information and guidance, please visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why Inclusion Matters

There are various disparities women of color experience in society. One in particular that we’ll cover are the challenges they face and limited quality of life due to implicit and explicit biases in health care and the lack of equitable and inclusive practices by health care professionals. According to research, health care disparities connect to the differences within marginalized groups that face social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantages

The social, economic, and environmental disadvantages that women of color face is that they don’t fit within the societal standard and will be treated differently because of it.

Racial Stereotypes  

Racial stereotypes are the reason why health disparities are so prevalent within the healthcare industry. Women of color are more likely to have  hypertension, be depressed, and to rate their own health more poorly because of the negative impact those stereotypes have on them. 

Instead of being treated like an individual, women of color are placed into a box that doesn’t support their medical needs. 

According to Health Affairs, some people in the United States were more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes simply because of their race or ethnicity, not just because they lack access to health care.” The choice of being biased is a disservice to all women of color. 

Lack of Awareness 

 Medical professionals lack cultural competence where they provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs, and behaviors. According to Cultural Competence and Patient Safety, cultural affiliations affect how an individual seeks care, describes symptoms, and follows instructions“ which makes it imperative for medical professionals to honor their patient’s cultural beliefs. 

Physicians must recognize that preconceived perceptions of minority patients plays a role in their lack of fair treatment and contribution.According to American College of Physicians,“Physicians and other health care professionals must be sensitive to cultural diversity among patients..” Cultural insensitivity toward black and brown women creates room for discouragement instead of encouragement. 

Health Statistics 

Black and Latinx women are the targeted minority groups who are perceived to have the most compromised immune systems. Poor diet, lack of Vitamin D, and abusing hair relaxers are factors as to why 80% of Black women are prone to having fibroids by the age of 50. 

According to Minority Health, Hispanic women are 40% more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 20% are more likely to die from cervical cancer compared to white women. Women of color are more likely to not be insured because of the economic disadvantages and lack of access compared to white women.

According to the Center for American Progress, “ in 2013, 37.6% of Asian American women over age 40 did not receive  mammograms while 32% of adult Asian American women did not get routine pap smears “. Unfortunately, 1 out of 5 Asian American women are uninsured which is deemed as an economic disadvantage. 

Language Barriers 

The health disadvantages that black and Latinx women face are that they don’t experience pain and that they aren’t worth being listened to in an effective manner.

Another challenge women of color face is the language barrier that affects the quality of healthcare service. Most Latinx families don’t practice speaking English in their household which acts as a burden on the medical professional as well as the patient. The social disadvantage that the patient faces is that medical professionals aren’t bilingual or their clinic doesn’t provide interpreters.

According to the Health Policy Institute, the language barrier leads to “patient dissatisfaction, poor comprehension, and lower quality of care.” We are limiting the narrative by limiting the language between the medical professional and patient. 

More Diversity in the Workforce 

Representation within the workforce is important and having cultural competence will eliminate all patients’ reservations toward receiving the proper treatment. According to  Diversity in Healthcare, 4% of medical doctors are African-American and that is insignificantly low. As a black woman, having an African-American doctor is a rewarding yet rare experience because there is no discomfort or judgment that takes place. 

The ultimate goal is to facilitate quality care and promote transparency within the health care system so women of color can feel more comfortable and welcomed. According to American College of Physicians , providing a more diverse health care workforce that honors the patient is crucial because it’ll promote understanding among physicians, health care professionals, and patients. 

Prevent Health Disparities  

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention data(2013) suggests reducing racial disparities by focusing on communities that are at greater risk and increasing access to quality care.

 According to The Health Affairs Blog, all clinicians and personnel interacting with patients should receive racial bias training so they are fully aware of their racial biases that negatively affects their patient’s quality of care. 

Inclusivity Mindset  

The United States will become a melting pot of different cultures and identities which makes inclusivity the ultimate goal toward progression. According to the National Institute of Health, women of color will represent 53% of the U.S population by 2050. 

Women of color face systematic obstacles that are made to exclude and neglect themselves daily. The inclusivity mindset will encourage women of color to be proud of their differences because they would see more health professionals that look like them. In order to decrease racial disparities, unsupported women of color must find ways to advocate for themselves so they receive the proper support that they deserve. The list below are 5 tips that will help decrease racial disparities within the healthcare industry.  

Here’s some Tips that will Help Decrease Racial Disparities:

  1. Advocate for yourself and hire a translator to eliminate the language barriers between you and your primary doctor
  2. Be more assertive with your primary doctor and express your concerns 
  3. Create a system where all patients of color have equal access to resources
  4. Demand to have a more diverse workforce so patients can comfortably adapt
  5. Start the conversation as medical professionals by addressing that racism within healthcare exists 

Inclusivity within the healthcare industry will shift the narrative of what it means to individuals and not statistics. The significance of being a woman is having the ability to face your hardships with grace and resilience even when you’re misunderstood. 

Work Cited Page

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Artiga, Samantha, Kendal Orgera. “Disparities in Health and Health Care: Five Key Questions and Answers.” KFF, 1 Apr. 2020, www.kff.org/racial-equity-and-health-policy/issue-brief/disparities-in-health-and-health-care-five-key-questions-and-answers/.

Elder, Nancy C., and Sunil Kripalani. “Cultural Competence and Patient Safety.” PSNet, 2019, psnet.ahrq.gov/perspective/cultural-competence-and-patient-safety

Enekwechi, Shantanu Agrawal Adaeze. “It’s Time To Address The Role Of Implicit Bias Within Health Care Delivery.” It’s Time To Address The Role Of Implicit Bias Within Health Care Delivery | Health Affairs, 15 Jan. 2020, www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20200108.34515/full/ 

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Ploetzke, Monica. “Fibroids: Greater in African-American Women than White. Why?” McLeod Health, 16 Dec. 2019, www.mcleodhealth.org/blog/fibroids-greater-in-african-american-women-than-white-but-why/

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N/A. “Cultural Competence in Health Care: Is It Important for People with Chronic Conditions?” Health Policy Institute, 13 Feb. 2019, hpi.georgetown.edu/cultural/

N/A. “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care.” American College of Physician , 2010, www.acponline.org/acp_policy/policies/racial_ethnic_disparities_2010.pdf

N/A“Conclusion and Future Directions: CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report – United States, 2013.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6203a32.htm?s_cid=su6203a32_w

N/A“Women of Color Health Data Book.” National Institutes of Health, 2014, orwh.od.nih.gov/sites/orwh/files/docs/WoC-Databook-FINAL.pdf.

Rao, Vidya. “’You Are Not Listening to Me’: Black Women on Pain and Implicit Bias in Medicine.” TODAY.com, 27 July 2020, www.today.com/health/implicit-bias-medicine-how-it-hurts-black-women-t187866

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