, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 968-974
Date: 15 May 2012

Disparities in Preventive Health Services Among Somali Immigrants and Refugees

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African immigrants and refugees—almost half of them from Somalia—account for one of the fastest-growing groups in the United States. There is reason to suspect that Somali-Americans may be at risk for low completion of recommended preventive health services. This study’s aim was to quantify disparities in preventive health services among Somali patients compared with non-Somali patients in an academic primary care practice in Rochester, Minn. It also examined the effect of medical interpreters, emergency department visits, and primary care visits on the completion of preventive services. Rates of pap smears, vaccinations (influenza, pneumococcus, and tetanus), lipid screening, colorectal cancer screening, and mammography were assessed in Somali and non-Somali patients during the second quarter of 2008. Data were collected regarding the utilization of medical interpreters, emergency services, and primary care services among Somali patients. Results were reported using standard descriptive statistics. Of the 91,557 patients identified in the database, 810 were Somali. Somali patients had significantly lower completion rates of colorectal cancer screening, mammography, pap smears, and influenza vaccination than non-Somali patients. Use of medical interpreters and primary care services were generally associated with higher completion rates of preventive services. There are significant discrepancies in the provision of preventive health services to Somali patients compared with that of non-Somali patients. These findings suggest the need to identify the root causes of these discrepancies so that interventions may be crafted to close the gap.