Background: In this article we estimate the variations in receipt of age-appropriate preventive services among adult women between 21 and 64 years of age, by race and ethnic group, socioeconomic status, and access to health care. We also assess whether differences in access to care and socioeconomic status may explain racial and ethnic differences in the use of preventive services.
Method: Nationally representative data on adult women from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey were used to estimate the effect of socioeconomic characteristics on the receipt of each preventive service. Receipt of each of four preventive services-cholesterol test, blood pressure reading, and two cancer screening tests (Papanicolaou smear, mammogram)-according to the 1996 recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force were examined.
Results: An overwhelming majority of adult women (93%) had had a blood pressure reading within the last 2 years. Eighty-four percent of women had had their cholesterol checked within the last 5 years. Seventy-five percent of women had received a mammogram and 80% received Pap tests. College education, high income, usual source of care, and health insurance consistently predicted use of preventive services. These factors also explained ethnic disparities in the receipt of preventive services between Latinas and white women.
Conclusions: The results from our study are encouraging because only a minority of women do not receive age-appropriate preventive services. However, low socioeconomic status, lack of insurance, and lack of a usual source of care represent significant barriers to preventive care for adult women.