Background Specific research on the role of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the health-seeking behavior of uninsured Chinese immigrants is sparse. Previous studies report that reliance upon TCM when first ill is higher among uninsured than insured Chinese study participants. This finding highlights the need to collect data on the role TCM plays in the health-related behaviors of uninsured Chinese immigrants. We hypothesized that uninsured Chinese immigrants choose TCM services and therapies, when first ill, with a higher frequency than insured Chinese immigrants.
Study Design and Methods An anonymous survey was designed with questions that asked about the specific circumstances of the participant's last illness, and the services and therapies sought to treat the illness. The survey was then translated into Chinese, and distributed through organizations in Seattle, WA, that have a large Chinese-based clientele, such as the International Center for Health Services, the Asian Counsel and Referral Service, and the Chinese Information and Service Center.
Results A total of 172 surveys were completed, however only 122 surveys provided usable data for this report. Of the 122 surveys, 105 (86.1%) respondents reported having health insurance and 17 (13.9%) respondents did not have health insurance. Sixty-two percent were female and the age mode was 65-74 years old. When ill, the subjects without health insurance were significantly more likely to initially consult a TCM provider (x2=23.11, df=3, p≤0.001) and use TCM modalities (x2=28.77, df=3, p≤0.001) than the subjects with health insurance. Likewise, subjects with private health insurance were significantly more likely to use TCM modalities than those with public health insurance (x2=6.95, df=2, p≤0.031).
Conclusion The result of this survey imply a trend that Chinese immigrants lacking health insurance are more likely to use TCM therapies when first ill than their insured counterparts. It is important to note, however, that because of the low number of uninsured participants, there was an insufficient N value to conduct a totally valid statistical analysis. Nonetheless, the data collected in this study highlights the role of TCM as a medical option for Chinese immigrants in Seattle. Further research into the topic is warranted in order to increase the general knowledge of the health care needs of Chinese immigrants, and aid health care providers in efforts to provide culturally sensitive health care.