New UC study examines both black and white attitudes surrounding race and choosing a doctor


A new pilot study from the University of Cincinnati reveals racial attitudes of both African Americans and whites when it comes to seeking medical care. Jennifer Malat, assistant professor of sociology, says the preliminary findings show there are two different factors between the races that affect those decisions. Results from the Greater Cincinnati Survey will be presented at 2:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, at the 100th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Philadelphia.

The survey polled approximately 1,000 people living in Greater Cincinnati. "Previous research has focused on African American attitudes toward choosing a same-race or different-race doctor, and how their personal experiences of unfair treatment from whites leads to preferences toward an African American doctor," Malat explains. "Now, we're comparing attitudes of both African Americans and whites, as we ask if they believe a doctor of a different race would understand their health problems."

The researchers found that for whites, their general racial attitudes toward people of other races affected how they felt about receiving treatment from a doctor of another race. The more negative their attitudes, the more they preferred seeing a doctor of the same race. Malat adds that racial attitude toward other race groups was not a factor for African Americans consulting with a health care professional. Instead, their perception of, first, white apathy or hostility against African Americans and second, poor past medical care due to race, made them more likely to prefer a same-race doctor.

The study suggests that future surveys consider general experiences as well as experiences within the health care system in measuring how race affects patients' decisions about health care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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