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Study documents obstacles to health care for minorities

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- More than a third of blacks and nearly two-thirds of Latinos lack health insurance in New Hampshire, according to a report released Friday on access to health care among minority populations.

As part of a three-year study, the New Hampshire Minority Health Coalition interviewed 680 residents of Hillsborough County about their physical and mental health and their experiences with the health care system.

Among those surveyed, 38 percent of blacks and 62 percent of Latinos were uninsured. Though both groups named cost as the most significant barrier to care, blacks were more likely to cite inconvenient clinic hours as a secondary obstacle, while Latinos said language barriers were a problem.

"We do have a problem in New Hampshire. The problem is not minorities, the problem is making health care accessible to every resident," said Jeanie Holt, the report's project director.

Holt said she hopes the report will spur policy makers and state health officials to collect similar data statewide.

"Without data, we have no clue where we are. We don't know where to focus our resources. We don't know what we have to fix," she said. "We don't know when we're making progress."

Almost half the Latinos surveyed described their overall health as "fair" or "poor," more than twice the percentage of blacks who gave those answers. Only 11 percent of Latinos described their overall health as "very good" or "excellent" compared to 47 percent of blacks.

In both populations, one-quarter said their mental health was "not good" for more than one week in the previous month.

Nearly one-third of blacks and 42 percent of Latinos had no primary care doctor. Despite that, more than half of Latinos and three-quarters of blacks had had a routine checkup in the past year.

About a quarter of blacks and 18 percent of Latinos said they sometimes felt as if they received inferior care because of their race.

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