BACKGROUND: Despite the availability of screening for chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection and effective treatments now available, many at-risk individuals fail to seek appropriate medical attention.
OBJECTIVE: To identify the barriers to care for CHB infection in a Chinese Canadian community.
METHODS: A survey conducted in English or Chinese collected information from individuals with CHB infection that evaluated the level of understanding and identified the barriers that may prevent Chinese patients from undergoing monitoring, screening and/or treatment for CHB infection.
RESULTS: Among the 204 patients enrolled, common misconceptions were that sharing food transmits hepatitis B and that patients with severe disease are always symptomatic. Patients with a better understanding of hepatitis B were better educated, younger and were being followed at a tertiary care centre (P<0.01 for all). Prominent barriers to health care were time, inconvenience and language difficulties. Patients under the care of family physicians who had extended office hours were less likely to cite time (P=0.06) and distance (P=0.05) as barriers.
CONCLUSION: Patient misconceptions that severe liver disease due to hepatitis B infection is symptomatic may factor into the unwillingness to spare the time and undergo the inconvenience associated with regular medical follow-up. Implementation of programs that increase awareness of the silent progression of CHB infection and provide culturally responsive clinics, better able to work within patients’ time constraints may improve Chinese patients’ access to health care.