Cultural Issues in Medication Adherence: Disparities and Directions



Adherence to medications is dependent upon a variety of factors, including individual characteristics of the patient, the patient’s family and culture, interactions with healthcare providers, and the healthcare system itself. Because of its association with worse outcomes, poor medication adherence is considered a potential contributor to disparities in health outcomes observed for various conditions across racial and ethnic groups. While there are no simple answers, it is clear that patient, provider, cultural, historical, and healthcare system factors all play a role in patterns of medication use. Here, we provide an overview of the interface between culture and medication adherence for chronic conditions; discuss medication adherence in the context of observed health disparities; provide examples of cultural issues in medication adherence at the individual, family, and healthcare system/provider level; review potential interventions to address cultural issues in medication use; and provide recommendations for future work.


medication adherence healthcare delivery cultural competence disparities 



Dr. McQuaid is supported by the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute of Brown University. Dr. Landier is supported by grant R01 CA174683 (PIs: Bhatia/Landier). The authors would like to thank the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) “Understanding and Improving Treatment Adherence: An Interdisciplinary Approach” conference leaders, and Elizabeth Rahn, PhD, for their review and input in the preparation of this manuscript, and Stacey C. Tobin, PhD, for providing editorial support.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.


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© Society of General Internal Medicine 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Alpert Medical SchoolBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pediatrics, Alpert Medical SchoolBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.Bradley/Hasbro Children’s Research CenterProvidenceUSA
  4. 4.Department of Pediatrics, School of MedicineUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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