Posted on December 10, 2023

Black Americans Expect to Face Racism in the Doctor’s Office, Survey Finds

Maria Godoy, NPR, December 5, 2023

Many people of color in this country say they have to change the way they dress and mentally brace themselves for potential mistreatment when they visit the doctor. That’s one of the sobering findings of a large new survey that probes the extent and implications of discrimination in American life, including health care.

The survey was conducted by the health research organization KFF. Researchers polled a nationally representative sample of nearly 6,300 adults.

The good news is that, among those that had sought health care in the past three years, people reported having positive and respectful interactions with their health care providers most of the time.

But the survey also uncovered troubling differences along racial and ethnic lines. Black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian and Alaska native adults were much more likely than their white counterparts to report having negative interactions during health care visits.


For example, twice as many Black women who’d given birth in the last decade said they’d been refused pain medications they’d thought they’d needed, compared to white women. Numerous previous studies have found that Black patients are less likely to receive appropriate pain medication than white patients.

And overall, at least a quarter people of color said that doctors were less likely to involve them in decisions about their care. {snip}


Another disturbing finding of the study is that Black adults with self-reported darker skin tones report more discrimination in everyday life. Sixty-two percent of Black adults who say their skin color is “very dark” or “dark” reported incidents of discrimination in the past year, compared to 42% Black adults who say their skin color is “very light” or “light.”

People of color were much more likely to report having respectful, positive interactions when their health care providers shared their racial or ethnic background.