October 1995

What Mothers Say About Why Poor Children Fall Behind on ImmunizationsA Summary of Focus Groups in North Carolina

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pediatrics (Drs Lannon, Bordley, and Margolis and Ms Stuart) and Medicine (Dr Lannon), University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill; Wake County Department of Health, Raleigh, NC (Dr Brack); Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Seattle, Wash (Ms Caplow); and Research Triangle Institute, Durham, NC (Ms McNeill).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(10):1070-1075. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170230024003

Objectives:  To develop a more thorough understanding of the factors that impede poor parents' utilization of health care services for their children and to refine interventions to improve immunization rates.

Methods:  We conducted focus group sessions with mothers whose children received care at the health departments in five North Carolina counties. Mothers were uninsured or were receiving Medicaid. A total of 50 women participated; group size varied from three to seven mothers.

Results:  Socially disadvantaged mothers faced barriers at multiple points in the process of obtaining preventive care for their children. Organizational barriers, such as a lack of flexibility in scheduling and long waiting times, were exacerbated by personal barriers, such as a lack of reliable transportation, chaotic home environments, and employment conflicts. Lack of knowledge regarding the timing of childhood immunizations and misperceptions about the safety of immunizations were also important obstacles. Mothers made several suggestions, such as changes in scheduling, greater assistance with transportation, improved waiting facilities, and increased health education.

Conclusions:  Our study suggests that even with improved financing of well-child care, many important barriers to adequate immunization will remain. Many of the changes that mothers in our focus groups advocated are not related to insurance coverage and would be simple and inexpensive to implement. To help with these changes, we developed a checklist for use by health departments to determine which organizational barriers exist at their facility and suggest strategies to overcome the problems. Organizational, personal, and attitudinal barriers pose serious problems for socioeconomically disadvantaged families. To improve vaccination rates for children, new personnel and programs are probably less important than careful strategies to maximize exisiting resources.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:1070-1075)