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Study Reveals Black Americans Adjust Behavior in Healthcare Settings

A recent study conducted by the California Health Care Foundation has unveiled that many Black Americans adapt their behavior when seeking healthcare due to concerns about bias and discrimination.

Black Patients and Healthcare

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The study, which surveyed over 3,000 Black individuals in California, exposes that a significant portion of Black patients either avoid healthcare altogether out of fear of unfair treatment or alter their behavior during medical visits to put healthcare providers at ease.

Fear of Unfair Treatment

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The study reveals that one in four Black patients opts to forego seeking healthcare because of apprehensions about facing unfair or disrespectful treatment within the healthcare system.

Behavior Alterations During Medical Visits

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Among Black patients who do proceed with medical visits, approximately one-third reported modifying their behavior during these interactions.

These adaptations range from adjusting their speech to becoming more deferential to healthcare providers.

The Issue Lies with the System

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Dr. Michael LeNoir, founder of the African American Wellness Project, emphasizes that the root problem lies within the healthcare institution’s perceptions and treatment of Black individuals.

He asserts that “it’s how [the system] perceives Black people, how they treat them.”

Disparities in Surgical Procedures

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In 2021, the Urban Institute conducted an analysis that revealed Black patients were significantly more likely to encounter complications related to surgical procedures compared to white patients.

Pain Management Disparities

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A study by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in January 2023 found disparities in pain management, indicating that older Black and Hispanic patients with advanced cancer were less likely to receive opioid medications for pain relief than their white counterparts.

Addressing the Issue

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Dr. LeNoir stresses the importance of addressing these disparities within the healthcare system to prevent patients from feeling further marginalized.

He believes that many Black patients accept mistreatment due to concerns about how it might impact their medical outcomes.

Underrepresentation of Black Physicians


A study by UCLA in 2021 highlighted that only 5.4% of U.S. physicians are Black, with this figure having increased by just 4 percentage points over the past 120 years.

Change from the Bottom Up

Dr. LeNoir holds the perspective that meaningful change in the healthcare system will originate not from those in leadership positions but from grassroots efforts.

He contends that addressing the persistent disparities in health outcomes for Black and Brown communities requires a bottom-up approach.

The Need for Systemic Change

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Highlighting the persistence of chronic health disparities over the years, Dr. LeNoir underscores the urgent necessity for systemic change within the healthcare system to bridge the health gap affecting Black and Brown populations.

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