Cultural Issues in Medication Adherence: Disparities and Directions

J Gen Intern Med. 2018 Feb;33(2):200-206. doi: 10.1007/s11606-017-4199-3.


Adherence to medications is dependent upon a variety of factors, including individual characteristics of the patient, the patient's family and culture, interactions with healthcare providers, and the healthcare system itself. Because of its association with worse outcomes, poor medication adherence is considered a potential contributor to disparities in health outcomes observed for various conditions across racial and ethnic groups. While there are no simple answers, it is clear that patient, provider, cultural, historical, and healthcare system factors all play a role in patterns of medication use. Here, we provide an overview of the interface between culture and medication adherence for chronic conditions; discuss medication adherence in the context of observed health disparities; provide examples of cultural issues in medication adherence at the individual, family, and healthcare system/provider level; review potential interventions to address cultural issues in medication use; and provide recommendations for future work.

Keywords: cultural competence; disparities; healthcare delivery; medication adherence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / drug therapy
  • Culturally Competent Care / methods
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence / ethnology
  • Medication Adherence / psychology*
  • Self-Management / psychology