Date of Award

Summer 8-7-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Bruce Perry, MD, MPH

Second Advisor

Dr. Sheryl Strasser, PhD, MPH, MSW


Americans often face end-of-life with ineffective pain/symptom control. While hospice care prevents suffering for the terminally ill, only around 40% of individuals access services. Although few studies describe differences in terms of cancer vs. non- cancer diagnoses, hospice utilization/access disparities appear to exist. Analyzing 14 sociodemographic and clinical variables for 3,905 hospice discharge cases, this study highlights observed disproportions between cancer and non-cancer groups, identifying significant relationships amongst patient characteristics and hospice diagnosis. Factors found significantly related to diagnosis include components of the following: age, primary payment source, mortality status at discharge, hospice initiation location, length of stay, physical function, cognitive function, and presence of pain symptoms. Results confirm low overall hospice utilization rates, while validating diagnosis-specific differences driven by individual and population-based characteristics. In order to increase utilization/access rates and eliminate current disparities, patients presenting with certain terminal diseases may require greater provider flexibility in terms of hospice eligibility requirements.