Recommendations for Contraception: Examining the Role of Patients' Age and Race

Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2018 Jan;77(1):7-13.


The literature suggests that women of different races are more or less likely to use certain contraceptive methods and patient race can influence which contraceptive recommendations a provider makes. To explore whether health care providers treat individuals of different races differently, we conducted a preliminary investigation on whether medical students recommended different contraceptive methods for hypothetical patients presenting with the same clinical features who only varied by race. Third- and fourth-year medical students (n=103) at the University of Hawai'i completed an online survey. Students read case studies about a 23-year-old and 36-year-old patient and then made contraceptive recommendations. All students reviewed the same scenarios, with the exception of the patient's name which was randomly assigned to represent one of five racial/ethnic groups (White, Chinese, Filipina, Native Hawaiian, and Micronesian). Recommendations were analyzed using χ2 tests and bivariate logistic regressions. For the younger patient, students were most likely to recommend intrauterine devices (IUDs), followed by the contraceptive pill and Etonogestrel implant; recommendations did not differ by race/ethnicity (P = .91). For the older patient, students were most likely to recommend IUDs or sterilization, and Micronesian women were more likely to receive sterilization recommendations compared to White women (60% versus 27%, P = .04). In summary, contraceptive recommendations, specifically the frequency of recommending sterilization varied by race. Our findings add to the literature exploring the role of a patient's race/ethnicity on recommendations for contraception and highlights the need for more studies exploring the etiology of health care disparities.

Keywords: contraception; disparities; medical students; race/ethnicity; sterilization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors*
  • Contraception Behavior / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Hawaii
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Racial Groups / ethnology
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Racism / ethnology
  • Racism / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires