"As state policy-makers decide whether to cut or invest in their state health insurance programs, such as Medicaid, they need to better understand factors, both systemic and individual, that influence whether and how people seek treatment for illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure," said Sandra Barnes, assistant professor of sociology.
"Limited health-care options mean that many people in poor urban communities are less likely to seek preventive care that could help them better manage their illnesses. In too many instances, this means that residents are forced to turn to emergency care in the form of expensive hospital emergency rooms."
Barnes found that difficulty in obtaining adequate, affordable, accessible health care undermines the health of many residents in poor urban neighborhoods. The problem is particularly acute for urbanites who are women and for racial/ethnic minorities.
"Policy should be shaped to provide more health-care assistance for the working poor - people who are employed but do not earn enough money to purchase health care or make too much to qualify for Medicaid," Barnes said. "If not, we will see higher mortality rates and a decrease in people's quality of life."
Additional health-care facilities also should be a priority for impoverished urban areas as should improving existing services and providing incentives for physicians to establish practices there, she wrote in Research in the Sociology of Health Care: Chronic Care, Health Care Systems, and Services Integration. The journal edition was published in March.
"I wanted to know whether poor people's health-care decisions are affected by neighborhood poverty and if they differ among races," Barnes said.