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Ethnic disparities in alcohol services: financial and logistical barriers are key

  • Researchers have confirmed a significant interaction between alcohol-problem severity and ethnicity.
  • Hispanics and blacks with higher-severity alcohol problems appear to utilize services at lower rates than whites with similar problems.
  • For Hispanics especially, this may be due in part to financial and logistical barriers to obtaining care.

Prior research has had mixed findings regarding ethnic disparities in alcohol services. A new study appears to confirm that disparities do exist: Hispanics and blacks with higher-severity alcohol problems seem to utilize services at lower rates than whites with similar problems. This appears to be due in part particularly for Hispanics to financial and logistical barriers to obtaining care.

Results are published in the January issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"National surveys suggest that, on the whole, only a fraction of Americans with alcohol abuse or dependence between nine and 16 percent have obtained treatment for their problems," said Laura A. Schmidt, assistant professor of health policy in the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and lead author of the study. "However, researchers have been at odds about the degree to which minority problem drinkers are underserved."

This study differs from previous studies in several ways, according to Nina Mulia, associate scientist with the Alcohol Research Group, who commented on the study. "The current study is a population-based survey with large numbers of black and Hispanic respondents, data on a wide array of alcohol-treatment services, and analyses that take into account important factors such as socioeconomic status and alcohol problem severity," she said.

"We looked at a wide range of services for alcohol problems since minorities in this study sought different types of care than those in the majority population," explained Schm
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