Physician Utilization by Hispanic Elderly Persons: National Perspective

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The number of elderly Hispanic Americans is projected to more than double by 2010 and account for 16% of all elders by 2050. The complex health needs and diversity of that growing population poses challenges for planning and delivery of health services.


The behavioral model of health services utilization was used to examine predisposing, enabling, and need factors associated with physician use by Hispanic elders and to assess whether Mexican American, Cuban American, and Puerto Rican elders differ in their likelihood of use.

Research Design.

Data are from the 1988 National Survey of Hispanic Elderly People, which is a nationally representative sample of Hispanic elders living within telephone exchanges with at least 30% concentration of Hispanics.


There were 2,299 completed interviews. Analyses are based on a subsample of 773 Mexican Americans, 714 Cuban Americans, and 368 Puerto Ricans.


The dependent variable, physician utilization, was self-reported number of visits in the previous year. It was dichotomized because of skewness. Independent variables include predisposing, enabling, and need factors.


Using hierarchical logistic regression, all three sets of factors contributed to the likelihood of a visit. Enabling factors, especially insurance coverage and adult children, had the greatest impact. Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans were 2.3 and 2.6 times more likely, respectively, to have seen a physician than were Mexican Americans.


In seeking to improve access and use of physician services, health care providers and policy makers should consider the role of social and economic factors and national origin group.

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