Abstract: The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Unmet Healthcare Needs in Asian Americans (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

748P The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Unmet Healthcare Needs in Asian Americans

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Eun-Hye Grace Yi, MSW, PhD candidate, Indiana University, IN
Yuri Jang, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, LA, CA
Background and Purpose. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) refers to health practices and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine, including acupuncture and herbal medicine. CAM has become popular in the U.S.: nearly 40% of the U.S. adult population is using some form of CAM. However, there is a lack of research on Asian Americans’ use of CAM and its connection to their unmet healthcare needs. Using a sample of diverse groups of Asian Americans, the current study aims to examine the effect of CAM use on unmet healthcare needs. Particular attention was given to the interaction of CAM use with health insurance and acculturation. It was hypothesized that the link between CAM use and unmet needs would be stronger among those without health insurance coverage and with low levels of acculturation.  

Methods. Data were drawn from the Asian American Quality of Life (AAQoL) survey conducted in Austin, Texas in 2015. A total of 2,609 self-identified Asian Americans aged 18 and older were surveyed, using questionnaires available in English and six Asian languages (Mean age = 42.85, SD = 17.11, range = 18-98). CAM use was measured by asking participants if they had visited a folk medicine provider for health concerns during the past 12 months. Unmet healthcare needs were measured by asking participants if there was a time in the past 12 months that they needed medical care but could not receive it. Logistic regression models of unmet healthcare needs examined with (1) direct effects of CAM use, healthcare access variables (health insurance coverage, having regular check-ups, and needing assistance for healthcare use) and acculturation-related variables (years living in the U.S., English proficiency, and familiarity to American cultures) and (2) interactions of CAM use with healthcare access and acculturation-related variables. All analyses were conducted after controlling for socio-demographic variables and health-related variables (chronic medical condition and self-rated health).  

Results. About 14% of the sample used CAM, and 11.4% reported having unmet healthcare needs. The higher odds of having unmet healthcare needs were observed among CAM users (OR = 2.09, 95% CI = 1.42, 3.07, p < .001). As hypothesized, the interaction terms of CAM use with health insurance (OR = .35, 95% CI =.14, .89, p<.05) and acculturation (OR = .39, 95% CI= .18, .82, p <.05) were found to be significant, indicating that the unmet healthcare needs were exacerbated among CAM users who were uninsured and less acculturated.  

Conclusion and Implications. The present study extended the current knowledge base by identifying the role of health insurance and acculturation in the links between CAM use and unmet healthcare needs in diverse groups of Asian Americans. Findings suggest that unmet healthcare needs are likely when CAM is chosen as a substitute of conventional healthcare in the absence of resources (i.e., no health insurance coverage and unfamiliarity to American cultures) and calls attention to the groups with such vulnerabilities.