Health Care of American Indian Elderly: Determinants of the Perceived Difficulty Obtaining Access to Health Care

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This study examines the perceived areas of difficulty in obtaining access to health care and the factors influencing that difficulty among elderly American Indians in a rural environment. One hundred thirty-seven elderly Indians in the Ponca and Pawnee tribes of Oklahoma were interviewed. Four major difficulties are reported: a long waiting period at Indian health centers, difficulty in making appointments to see physicians, language and cultural barriers to communication with the health care providers, and lack of available transportation. The long waiting period is the most serious problem, and lack of transportation is the least serious. The results of probit analysis show that physical health, automobile ownership, education, employment, and the presence of an informal caregiver are related to difficulty obtaining access to health care. Ways to minimize this difficulty are discussed.

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