Health Disparities in Access to Nonpharmacologic Therapies in an Urban Community

UMMS Affiliation

Center for Integrated Primary Care; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Health Services Administration | Health Services Research | Integrative Medicine | Pain Management


OBJECTIVE: The overuse of prescription opioids for chronic pain is recognized as a public health crisis. Yet, poor access to nonpharmacologic treatments is the norm in low-income, racially and ethnically diverse patients with chronic pain. The main objective of this study was to understand how chronic pain impacts low-income individuals with chronic pain and their communities from multiple perspectives.

DESIGN: This was a qualitative study using a Science Cafe methodology.

SETTING: The Science Cafe event was held at an urban community center in Boston, MA.

SUBJECTS: Inclusion criteria included the following: having the ability to attend the event, being at least 18 years of age or older, and participating in English.

METHODS: Data were collected through self-reported questionnaires and audio or video recordings of two focus groups. Quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed with SAS 9.3 and NVivo 10.

RESULTS: Thirty participants attended the Science Cafe event. The average age was 45 years, 77% reported as female, 42% identified as black, and 19% as Hispanic. Participants identified themselves as either patients (46%) or providers (54%) to the chronic pain community. Our forum revealed three major themes: (1) nonpharmacologic options for chronic pain management are warranted, (2) larger sociodemographic and contextual factors influence management of chronic pain, and (3) both patients and providers value the patient-provider relationship and acknowledge the need for better communication for patients with chronic pain.

CONCLUSIONS: Future research should consider identifying and addressing disparities in access to nonpharmacologic treatments for chronic pain in relation to underlying social determinants of health, particularly for racially and ethnically diverse patients.


chronic pain, health disparities, integrative medicine, nonpharmacologic therapies, opioids, science café

DOI of Published Version



J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Jan;25(1):48-60. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0217. Epub 2018 Sep 20. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.)

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID