Healthcare Services for Minority Groups with Substance Abuse Critical as Populations Grow

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Current projections anticipate that the minority population will see substantial growth in the next 40 years. According to two studies (Bergman, 2004; Cheeseman Day, 2001), from 2000 to 2050, the white population is expected to comprise 50.1 percent of the population compared with 69.4 percent in 2000. The Hispanic population will increase from 12.6 percent to 24.4 percent of the population and the black population will increase from 12.7 percent to 14.6 percent of the population.

These population projections have caused researchers to identify the need to address disparities in healthcare services among minorities. In 2004, Grant et al. showed that alcohol dependence among America’s largest minority groups has increased, while for Whites the rates of alcohol problems have remained stable or declined. This is very important, given the above projections for minority growth. An increasingly large percentage of the population may not have necessary healthcare to address alcohol dependence problems.

Data from the National Alcohol Surveys in 1995 and 2000 have provided researchers (Schmidt, Ye, Greenfield, & Bond, 2007) with information about the population’s lifetime need for alcohol treatment services, utilization of alcohol treatment services (such as specialty treatment programs, AA, private physician, social services) and alcohol-related programs.

The 1995 NAS consisted of 5,345 cases, including 1, 585 Hispanics, 1,582 Blacks, and 2,178 non-Hispanic Whites, with an overall response rate of 77%. The 2000 NAS consisted of 7.612 cases, including 869 Hispanics, 1, 341 Blacks and 5,402 non-Hispanic Whites and had an overall response rate of 58%.

The researchers estimate that 30% of White respondents, 27% of Hispanic respondents and 22% of Black respondents required alcohol treatment services at some point during their lives. Researchers found that both Hispanics and Blacks with more severe alcohol problems were significantly less likely to have received treatment than Whites with more severe alcohol problems.

Limitations apply to this study, including applying only lifetime measures of disorders instead of more recent past-year or past-month measures. This limitation could have misrepresented the disparity between groups by overestimating the number of participants who are in need of service currently.

Another limitation is that the individuals were reporting on events that may have occurred many years in the past. Relying on information given based on events in the past can introduce recall bias.

Despite its limitations, this study highlights the importance of addressing the disparity of healthcare access among minority groups at increased risk for substance abuse. Future research may include an examination of the factors affecting the lack of healthcare accessibility, such as language barriers, socioeconomic barriers and immigration status.