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INTRODUCTION: Individuals who have difficulty gaining access to health care may delay seeking and obtaining treatment, underutilize preventive health care services, and may have a high prevalence of chronic disease risks. This report examines participant perception of the level of difficulty encountered when obtaining medical care and its influence on the prevalence of chronic disease behavioral risks among urban African Americans. RESULTS: We found a significantly higher prevalence of current cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption among African Americans who reported that they experienced difficulty in obtaining medical care than among those who did not. Compared to those who experienced no difficulty obtaining care, participants who perceived a high level of difficulty in obtaining care were less likely to have had a physical exam in the past year and to have seen the same doctor when services were obtained. CONCLUSION: The perception of a high level of difficulty obtaining health care may be associated with a higher prevalence of behavioral risks for chronic disease. The limited data suggest a need to more closely examine the perception of health care accessibility and its relationship to health services utilization and the prevalence of chronic disease behavioral risks.