It seems that we brought the Michigan cold with us as the weather suddenly dropped from a wam 86 degrees yesterday to a cold and rainy 40 degrees today. And so begins our PHAST South Texas experience.
My group will be working with Dr. Suad Ghaddar from the University of Texas Pan American on a project assessing public perception of personalized health records (PHRs). Dr. Ghaddar is also the preceptor for another group project focusing on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yesterday we met at UTPA to discuss the impact that ACA and PHRs can have on the South Texas population.
Some background: Health disparities are a large issue in South Texas. High rates of poverty (the per capita income is around $14,000) and high levels of uninsured individuals (50% between the ages of 18 – 65) lead to less utilization of preventive care, thereby increasing rates of chronic illnesses. The ultimate goal of Dr. Ghaddar’s studies is to see if knowledge of the ACA and PHRs is associated with healthcare utilization.
The problem, I feel, lies in the fact that many individuals in South Texas do not have have access to the right education about the ACA and PHRs. Once they do have this knowledge, it’s important to assess why they are still not taking advantage of these resources. For instance, one of the UTPA graduate research assistants brought up an interesting point – some South Texas residents might think, “why should I pay hundreds of dollars a month for health insurance when I can just see a doctor across the border in Mexico who will only charge me $3.50 a visit?” Of course, issues like safety play a large role. But it will be interesting to see the general public perception and how closely it ties into common health disparities.
I’m looking forward to starting the interviewing process today. Hopefully this type of research will allow us to gain new insights about barriers for this community that can thus impact policy implementation in the future.