Health Sciences Professor Finds Inconsistencies in Health Care for American Indian Women

VERMILLION, S.D. -- A University of South Dakota social work professor has published research on the level of medical care received by American Indian women in South Dakota who suffer from cancer.

Soonhee Roh, Ph.D., together with three other social work researchers around the nation, wrote “Healthcare barriers and supports for American Indian women with cancer,” which was published in the May 2018 issue of “Social Work in Health Care.” Roh and her colleagues explained that American Indian women face extreme disparities when it comes to health care, including lack of consistent and qualified providers, inadequate healthcare infrastructure, women’s health concerns being ignored or overlooked, poor patient-healthcare provider relationships and pressure or misinformation about cancer treatment.

Not only did participants report experiences of doctors not believing them when they reported health problems, many women reported infrastructure barriers related to a lack of sufficient and consistent doctors, testing facilities and hospitals within driving distance.

The results of Roh’s study conclude that American Indian women’s health care is under-researched, and many health care providers in general are not educated on their specific needs. Because American Indian/Alaskan Native women experience cancer at 1.6 times the frequency of white women, and it is the main cause of mortality for American Indian women, the study is important to help healthcare providers understand the need for culturally-sensitive and specific interventions. The study suggests social workers train those who work with American Indian women in health care settings, particularly those who work with cancer patients.

Roh has been at USD since 2011, and her research was supported by National Institute on Minority Health and Disparities.

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