To remedy the under-vaccination of such groups, the researchers recommend clinical interventions and public health campaigns that are culturally appropriate and will encourage vaccination against influenza.
"The elderly are at most risk from influenza, and it is a serious public health concern," said Truls Ostbye, M.D., lead author of the study that appears in the online journal BioMed Central Public Health. "Healthy People 2010 -- which identifies our nation's most significant health concerns and designs action plans to address these concerns -- has set the goal that 90 percent of our elderly be vaccinated against influenza annually. Our data show that we have significant work to do to reach this objective." Ostbye is a professor in the department of community and family medicine at Duke.
Most alarming, Ostbye said, is the drastically lower rates of vaccination in the African-American community.
"We see a 10 percent to 20 percent point gap in vaccination rates between blacks and whites. Even when we adjust for socioeconomic, health and health care variables, this difference still persists," said Ostbye. "More research is needed to understand the cultural issues that may be a barrier to vaccination in this population."
The Duke researchers examined data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and its companion study, The Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD), both of which have been collecting data from 1993 to determine how retirement impacts the health and wealth of American men and women. The studies were funded by the National Institute on Aging. In
Contact: Amy Austell
Duke University Medical Center