Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Attitudes towards Health Technologies for Telecare and Their Relationship to Successful Aging in a Community-Based Older Minority Population

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Attitudes towards Health Technologies for Telecare and Their Relationship to Successful Aging in a Community-Based Older Minority Population

Article excerpt

Background

The US older population has grown rapidly during the 20th century, and although people are now living longer, the incidence of chronic illness is rising in this population, threatening individual quality of life, and placing more demands on the health care system. (Payne, Mowen, and Montoro-Rodriguez 2006, 20) One of the goals identified in Healthy People 2010 is to increase life expectancy and quality of life over the next 10 years by helping individuals gain the knowledge, motivation, and opportunities they need to make informed decisions about their health. Another goal of Healthy People 2010 is to eliminate health disparities among segments of the population, including differences that occur by gender, race or ethnicity, education or income, disability, geographic location, or sexual orientation. (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2000) . Health disparities refer to differences in health profiles across major subgroups of the population, including a broad spectrum of physical and mental health outcomes, from self-rated health to mortality, from psychological well being to major mental disorders(Schnittker and McLeod 2005). While demographers estimate that the number of African American elders will increase by 102 percent between 1990 and 2020, African Americans continue to have a lower life expectancy rate than the overall population. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, African American life expectancy is 70.2 years, compared to an average of 76.5 years for all population groups. (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2006) The difference in life expectancy is even more striking among African American men, who have a life expectancy of only 66.1 years, compared to the national average of 73.6 years for all men (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2006)

Several social and economic factors contribute to these disparities. More than 68 percent of older African Americans are poor, marginally poor, or economically vulnerable. Older African Americans are more than one and a half times as likely as white elders to live below the poverty line. More than one in four older African Americans have incomes that fall below the poverty line(U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2006). Many older African American women are vulnerable to social isolation and economic hardship. Nearly 40 percent of African American women ages 65 and older live alone compared to 19 percent of older whites ages 65 and older. African American elders are also less likely to be married compared to white elders. For older African American men, 55 percent are married compared to 75 percent of older white men, and 22 percent of older African American women are married, compared to 42 percent of older white women(U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2006). In terms of health, older African Americans are more likely than whites to suffer from hypertension, diabetes and have serious physical limitations. Heart disease death rates are more than 40 percent higher for African Americans than for whites; for prostate cancer, it more than doubles that for whites. African American women have higher death rates from breast cancer despite having a mammography screening rate that is nearly the same as the rate for white women(U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2000).

Health Technologies has been proposed as one way to help reduce health disparities (Redford and Whitten 1997; Freedman et al. 2006; Williams, Doughty, and Bradley 2000). In many cases the elderly or disabled people who need care or special services are able to live independently due to technology used in such products as motorized wheelchairs. With the growing dependency rate, telecare can ensure that the quality of care does not decline because of any numerical imbalance between generations(Brink 1997). (Tang and Venables 2000) Health technologies for telecare have increased the opportunities to monitor and treat diseases. However, it is important to recognize that a significant proportion of the elderly population has disabilities that may limit to access to or use of new health technologies. …

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