Barriers to Healthcare: How Socioeconomic Status Affects Access to Healthcare

Author: Emma Howard-Woods
Major: Sociology
Approved: Fall 2018
Status: Completed

In our current political climate, access to healthcare has been headline news. From a social science perspective, the underprivileged not only have to face day-to-day problems stemming from poverty, but also experience a disproportionately large number of obstacles to healthcare. While there is a clear correlation between poverty and health & chronic disease (Phelan, Link, and Tehranifar 2010), this project aims to expand on existing healthcare research in order to examine barriers to healthcare access.

In order to get a holistic perspective of healthcare barriers it is important to examine perceptions of barriers from the perspective of healthcare providers, something the existing literature lacks. My research will collect and examine healthcare provider data about barriers to healthcare as well as corresponding data collected from patients of the same clinics in order to generate policy recommendations. My main research question is: What differences in perception of barriers do we see across socioeconomic strata in the Roanoke Valley?

My research will begin with a survey given to three different types of clinics in the Roanoke Valley that serve distinct socioeconomic populations. This survey will be given to staff members that have direct exposure to patients. Pending IRB approval, the clinics will also have a patient survey to hand out to patients upon check-in to the clinic. These patient responses will be collected in a designated box for my collection. The purpose of these surveys will be to assess the extent to which each type of clinic perceives healthcare barriers. The collected data will be analyzed in order to generate recommendations for policy change.