Different attitudes among blacks and whites affect their preference for same-race physicians

Research Activities, June 2011, No. 370

Just as some patients prefer to be seen by a physician of the same sex, other patients may feel more comfortable with a doctor of the same race/ethnicity. This is called race concordance. A new study reveals very different motivators behind these attitudes among black and white patients. It looked at what drives preferences for race-concordant physicians in black and white patients.

Blacks were more likely than whites to have positive beliefs and expectations for same-race doctors. Only 2.5 percent of whites felt they had not received the best medical care from a different-race doctor; however, 10 percent of blacks felt this way. As a result, this feeling among blacks was associated with positive attitudes toward race-concordant doctors. For whites, those who preferred not to have interracial contact in their lives expected to feel more comfortable with white doctors and to have them understand their health problems. The findings show the importance of considering social context when studying attitudes toward race in health care interactions, note the researchers.

They used data from a random telephone survey of residents living in the Cincinnati area. Their sample included 695 whites and 510 blacks. Two questions were asked of each individual to determine their attitudes regarding race concordance with doctors. They were first asked to agree or disagree with this statement: "In general, doctors understand my health problems better when they are the same race as me rather than a different race." This was followed with a second statement: "In general, I feel more at ease when the doctor is the same race as I am." Participants were also asked if they didn't receive the best medical care in the past from a doctor who was a different race. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13280).

See "Factors affecting whites' and blacks' attitudes toward race concordance with doctors," by Jennifer Malat, Ph.D., David Purcell, Ph.D., and Michelle Van Ryn, Ph.D., M.P.H., in the Journal of the National Medical Association 102(9), pp. 787-793, 2010.

Current as of June 2011
Internet Citation: Different attitudes among blacks and whites affect their preference for same-race physicians: Research Activities, June 2011, No. 370. June 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jun11/0611RA4.html