NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 28, 2006

Blacks are significantly more likely than whites to report low trust in health care providers, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania surveyed 432 blacks and 522 whites from across the United States.

  • They found low levels of trust among nearly 45 percent of blacks, compared with 33.5 percent of whites.
  • The lowest level of trust was found among blacks who sought care in locations other than a doctor's office.
  • The researchers attributed blacks' greater lack of trust to the fact that more blacks are uninsured, forcing them to seek care in emergency departments and clinics, where they cannot build up a rapport with doctors and nurses.

Lead researcher Chanita Hughes Halbert of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues say frequent shift changes and busy staff in hospital emergency departments could interfere with patients' relationships with physicians.

The researchers did not find that the race of the physician was a factor in the distrust among blacks. According to the authors, the findings suggest that increased access to health care in settings where there is greater opportunity to develop effective interpersonal relationships with providers, regardless of the provider's racial or ethnic background, may improve trust.

The researchers conclude that providers and staff might need training to improve communication with both blacks and whites, particularly in settings that serve more black patients. "The interpersonal relationship between patients and health care providers is a critical component of patient trust," says Hughes Halbert.

Source: From News Services, "African Americans Trust Health Workers Less," Washington Post, April 25, 2006; based upon: Chanita Hughes Halbert et al., "Racial Differences in Trust in Health Care Providers," Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 166 No. 8, April 24, 2006.

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