The role of social capital in racial and class health disparities : how health information seeking behaviors impact self-perceived health status
Cirila Estela Vasquez Guzman
May 10, 2010
Department or Program
There is a strong consensus among scholars who study racial, ethnic and socioeconomic health disparities that minorities who disproportionately suffer from chronic conditions are more likely to experience related complications, and lack access to health services (Nelson 2003). Studies also consistently find those with lower income have higher prevalence of chronic conditions, worse health status, and lack of access to health care services (Lynch and Kaplan 2000; Murthy 2007; Swart et al. 2005). I apply the concept of social capital to assess the impact of health information seeking behaviors (HISB) via social networks on patients’ with chronic conditions self-perceived health status. Following previous literature, I define social capital as social networks by which individuals can access, borrow, and use health information to facilitate health management behaviors. Studies find that patients with chronic conditions are most likely to seek in-depth health information and are more likely to use that information to better their health status (Tu and Cohen 2008; Fox 2009). In light of persisting racial and socioeconomic health disparities I ask the following research questions: What is the relationship between race and self-perceived health status? What is the relationship between income and self-perceived health status? How does the quantity and form of health information seeking behaviors (HISB) mediate the relationship between race and health status? Do HISB mediate the relationship between income and health status? To answer these important research questions I conducted quantitative analysis on 305 surveys completed by Chronic Illness Management Clinic patients in a Northwest hospital/research institution. I hope my findings can be useful in better meeting the health information needs of minorities and lower income patients suffering from chronic conditions.