Wizdom Powell Hammond, PhD, MPH
African American mens medical mistrust may be about more than Tuskegee
In a forthcoming article in a special issue of The American Journal of Community Psychology, I examined the relationship between aspects of African American men’s identity, current social lives, healthcare experiences and their medical mistrust.
In general, men appear to be more mistrustful of medical organizations and providers than women. I recruited 216 African American adult males primarily from barbershops in the Southeast, Midwest, and Northeast US to investigate whether mistrust was related to beliefs about their gender or masculinity. I also looked at African American men’s recent reports of racial discrimination, interactions with physicians, and general perceptions of racism in healthcare to see if they might play a role in their medical mistrust.
I learned that having a traditional mindset about what it means to be a man- repress your emotions, don’t allow anyone to disrespect you, be in control-made it more difficult for African American men to trust medical organizations. I also found that African American men were more mistrustful of medical organizations when they reported experiencing racial discrimination more often. These experiences may have lead African American men to also expect unfair treatment by the healthcare system. In fact, I discovered that when African American men thought they might be treated unfairly by healthcare providers because of their race, they also reported higher levels of medical mistrust.
It appeared that African American men were least likely to mistrust when they reported having a recent experience with physicians that was courteous, empathic, and respectful. This finding suggests that there may be a way to change how African American men feel about the healthcare system after all.
Though researchers have focused solely on the role of events long past, which are harder to address, this study implies that how physicians behave today may matter more when it comes to reducing African American men’s medical mistrust.
Pictured : Wizdom and her husband, Michael
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