Mistrust For The Medical Industry Runs Deep With Black Americans - Let's Talk About It

The experience of the Charlottesville white xenophobic rally in 2017 has left a negative impression on so many Americans with regards to matters concerning healthcare delivery services. This has further reinforced the fact that racial odium has gotten more deep-seated than we fathomed.

Research shows that black Americans have lost confidence and trust in the healthcare system more than white ethnicities. They felt that national health care providers did not have their best interest at heart. The tendency of black people seeking treatment or medical attention in hospitals was extremely low due to factors such as: racial bias, status, economic factors, insurance, etc.

The medical and healthcare community as whole need to look into these matters with utmost urgency as this has grown to be one of the major health incongruences and dichotomy between our ethnicities.

It is an established fact that black people as a whole generally have shorter and more variable life expectancies compared to whites and are quicker to develop protracted illnesses and diseases at earlier stages. When it comes to the asthma mortality rate, black Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma related conditions. Historically, the mortality rate with regards to cancer in black Americans has been 20% higher. But this rate has dropped dramatically within the past few decades. However, on a larger scale, black people have a higher mortality rate from epidemic diseases.

When it comes to establishing a solid and healthy doctor-patient relationship, trust is a major factor. It also plays a key role in determining the ease that patients will reach out to seek medical attention early before the condition goes beyond medical treatment. To fully settle the issue of distrust, an analysis of the historical background on the whole situation and how it found its way into the present day era needs to be made.

Historical Background

The medical establishment has had a track record of exploiting and discriminating black Americans. As a matter of fact, this has left an imprint in the hearts of the whole community as memories of painful experiences of such continue to linger in the heart of the people.

Historically speaking, it is an established fact that medicine had no respect and regard by going as far as using black bodies as cadavers for medical advancement without due consent. Medical institutions, technologies, and theories were used to advance systems of subjugation.

During the Antebellum era from 1836 -1860, black people were forced out of their own free will to be part of medical analysis and dissections. The source of anatomical and surgical experimental process were dead bodies of black people that were stolen from their graves without permission from relevant authorities.

The ‘runaway slave syndrome’ or the psychiatric diagnosis of ‘drapetomania’ was actually created with the sole aim of pathologizing African slaves who escaped their tyrant owners. Running away from slavery was considered a disease at that time and the punishment or treatment was amputation.

During the Reconstruction era from 1863 -1877, American medical practitioners contended and claimed that former black slaves would not be able to survive and bloom in a free society because their mental capacity could not psychologically handle freedom.

During the Civil Rights era from1954 - 1968, psychoanalysts made use of the schizophrenia model to paint black militants and objectors as paranoid and hostile as they pose a threat to the status quo of racism.

In the Tuskegee Syphilis Study from1932 - 1972, over 200 African American men that had syphilis were deliberately denied treatment. This became the standpoint upon which medical research and medicine as a whole victimized black Americans. Over the decades, different researchers have written and proven the Tuskegee experiment to be the basis of distrust among black American communities. Although the issue of distrust began way before the Tuskegee study, it has been widely regarded as the basic explanation to the rationale behind it.

Modern Times

Through IAT tests, bias of treatment based on ethnicity/race, socioeconomic background, and insurance coverage has cut across so many medical institutions.

A study was conducted on emergency room records and it revealed that when it came to receiving triage scores, whites are attended to more than blacks for the same medical condition. This translates into black people having longer wait times, even when there was a case of an emergency.


The issue of cynicism, suspicion, and distrust needs to be addressed squarely by the National Medical Association. Given the historical backgrounds, gaining back trust is going to be an uphill battle. This is the reason why local and state medical institutions need to address the situation once and for all.

The role of biases should be looked into by medical and health organizations in each state. Medical care dichotomy has been fully explained by this implicit racial bias whereby doctors were found to have a higher percentage of stereotyping and had a greater tendency of intentionally withholding complete medical attention and treatment from a patient of color.

Always trust your instincts. Choosing a doctor should not be taken lightly since it involves the quality of your medical care and could be a matter of life or death. Legal issues such as a medical breach, malpractice, or negligence should be taken up with a local health care attorney.

Medical training institutions should ensure that doctors are taught well and trainings geared towards addressing implicit bias should be adopted. These factors should be considered in clinical and specialist practices to make possible improved health care and trust building for black Americans.

Doctors should take the lead in nonpartisan efforts to improve our health care system. These include addressing issues with healthcare access and medical costs for those who are the most vulnerable.

Policymakers as a whole should be held accountable because their role is to ensure that there is universal equity when it comes to providing equal and adequate medical attention to all, including black Americans.

Valerie lives in New York. As a health advocate, she shares tips and steps on maximizing nutrition, weight, and fitness goals to help others embrace a healthier lifestyle. She blogs at Halfmile Fitness.

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