Previous work has shown that there is a higher frequency of hospitalizations among black heart failure patients relative to white heart failure patients. We sought to determine whether racial differences exist in health literacy and access to outpatient medical care, and to identify factors associated with these differences.
We evaluated data from 1464 heart failure patients (644 black and 820 white). Health literacy was assessed using the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine-Revised (REALM-R), and access to care was assessed through participants’ self-report.
Black race was strongly associated with worse health literacy and all measures of poor access to care in unadjusted analyses. After adjusting for demographics, non-cardiac comorbidity, social support, insurance status, and socio-economic status (income and education), the strongest associations were seen between race and: health literacy (OR 2.13, 95% CI 1.46-3.10), absence of a medical home (OR 1.76, 1.19-2.61), and cost as a deterrent to seeking health care (OR 1.55, 1.07-2.23).
Our findings highlight that important racial differences in health literacy and access to care exist among patients with heart failure. These differences persist even after adjustment for a broad range of potential mediators, including educational attainment, income, and insurance status.
Keywords: Heart Failure, Racial Disparities, Health Literacy, Access to Care