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Privacy Concern Bigger Barrier To NZ Teens Accessing Health

Media Release

28 February 2013

Privacy Concerns A Bigger Barrier To NZ Teens Accessing Health Care Than Overseas

Perceived lack of confidentiality is an important barrier to young people accessing health care services in New Zealand, says a new study published in the March issue of the Journal of Primary Health Care.

One in six secondary school students interviewed by University of Auckland researchers had not seen a doctor or nurse when they needed to in the previous year. This statistic reflects international studies on young people’s barriers to accessing health care. However, an unexpected result was that nearly a third of students gave privacy concerns as a reason for forgoing health care.

‘This was markedly higher than a similar study utilising data from the US where 11 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls reported privacy concerns as a reason for forgone health care,’ says lead researcher Simon Denny from the Department of Community Paediatrics at The University of Auckland.

‘Young people rate barriers around confidentiality and embarrassment as highly important, in contrast to service providers who consider these barriers of low importance.’

The researchers found the most common barrier to students accessing health care was ‘not wanting to make a fuss’ with 55 percent citing this as a reason not to access health services. However, cost, fear, lack of transport, lack of knowledge of how to access health care and not being able to get an appointment were also important reasons why some students never made it to see a doctor or nurse.

Female students, Māori and Pacific students, and those living in neighbourhoods with high levels of deprivation were the most likely to report not having sought health care when they needed to. In addition, students with chronic health problems or disabilities, those behaving in ways that posed a risk to their health or those experiencing depression were more likely to report being unable to access health care.

‘It is of concern that both students with health concerns and students from populations experiencing disparities in health outcomes were most at risk of forgone health care, as these issues are arguably amenable to good quality primary care,’ says Simon Denny.

‘Improving health care access for young people in New Zealand will require a comprehensive approach, with primary care providers being trained and responsive to the needs of the adolescent population.’

Researchers interviewed a random sample of over 9000 secondary school students.

The Journal of Primary Health Care is at


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