Objectives: We conducted the first empirical examination of disparities in H1N1 exposure, susceptibility to H1N1 complications, and access to health care during the H1N1 influenza pandemic.
Methods: We conducted a nationally representative survey among a sample drawn from more than 60,000 US households. We analyzed responses from 1479 adults, including significant numbers of Blacks and Hispanics. The survey asked respondents about their ability to impose social distance in response to public health recommendations, their chronic health conditions, and their access to health care.
Results: Risk of exposure to H1N1 was significantly related to race and ethnicity. Spanish-speaking Hispanics were at greatest risk of exposure but were less susceptible to complications from H1N1. Disparities in access to health care remained significant for Spanish-speaking Hispanics after controlling for other demographic factors. We used measures based on prevalence of chronic conditions to determine that Blacks were the most susceptible to complications from H1N1.
Conclusions: We found significant race/ethnicity-related disparities in potential risk from H1N1 flu. Disparities in the risks of exposure, susceptibility (particularly to severe disease), and access to health care may interact to exacerbate existing health inequalities and contribute to increased morbidity and mortality in these populations.