This study focused on the use of 14 evidence-based preventive services for the low-income population over age 50: colorectal, breast and cervical cancer screening, cholesterol screening, counseling around diet, exercise, tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs, and immunizations for influenza, tetanus and pneumonia. Population characteristics and rates of delivery of these preventive services are compared for low-income users of community health clinics vs private doctors' offices/HMOs. Three nationally representative data-files from the National Health Interview Survey—the Person-Level File, Sample Adult File, and Sample Adult Prevention File—were linked to obtain the necessary data on preventive services use in the 12,024 persons over age 50. Among the population of persons over age 50 living below 200% of the poverty threshold, those using community clinics were more likely to be younger, a racial or ethnic minority, less formally educated, in poorer health, uninsured, and more likely to face time, transportation or cost barriers to obtaining health care (p < .01 for all comparisons), than their counterparts using private doctors' offices/HMOs. Community health clinics performed as well as private doctors/HMOs in the delivery of cancer screening, cholesterol screening and immunizations to lower income persons over 50 years. Rates of counseling about diet and exercise were higher among users of private doctor's offices than among users of community health clinics users (40% vs. 31% respectively, p = .02). Despite the severe resource constraints under which they operate, and the greater vulnerability of the population they serve, community clinics deliver preventive services at rates comparable to private doctors' offices and HMOs.
primary health care preventive services low-income community health clinics