Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research Study Shows African-Americans are More Likely than Whites to Report Low Trust in Health Care Providers

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A study by researchers at the Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research at the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania found that African-Americans were significantly more likely than whites to report low trust in health-care providers. The research appears in the April issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Developing a better understanding of how health-care experiences and structural factors shape trust among African-Americans and whites is needed to identify specific aspects of the health-care system that should be addressed to improve trust among these populations," said lead author Chanita Hughes-Halbert, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry at Penn’s School of Medicine.

Using data from the Kaiser Family Foundation Survey of Race, Ethnicity and Medical Care, researchers evaluated the relationship between trust in health care providers and sociodemographics, prior health-care experiences, and structural characteristics of health care in a national sample of African-Americans and whites.

Researchers found that 44 percent of African-Americans reported low trust in health-care providers compared with 33 percent of whites. Among African-Americans, those who had fewer quality interactions with health care providers were about three times more likely to report low trust compared with those with more quality interactions. African-Americans who obtained medical care at facilities other than a physician’s office were most likely to report low trust. Among whites, respondents without health insurance and those without annual health care visits were most likely to report low trust in health care providers.

"Part of the challenge before us is to determine whether these lower levels of trust are associated with other indicators of differential provider ability, including cultural competence," said co-author Oscar Gandy, Ph.D.

The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute.