Perceived Discrimination in Health Care and Health Status in a Racially Diverse Sample

According to data collected in a 2004 government survey, more African Americans perceive racial discrimination in the U.S. health care system than either Whites or Hispanics. But for both African Americans and Whites, this perception of racial discrimination in health care is associated with worse health.   

While other studies have looked at the correlation of race and health and at the link between general unfair treatment and health, very few have looked at racial discrimination in health care and its relation to health status. This study uses data from seven states and the District of Columbia collected in the 2004 BRFSS, an annual CDC-supported telephone survey administered by the states. People were asked to rate their health and whether they had perceived racial discrimination while seeking health care in the past 12 months.

Key Findings:

  • Consistent with previous research, few people overall (3.4%) perceived racial discrimination in health care. 
  • African Americans perceived racial discrimination in health care three times more often than Whites.
  • Individuals in all three racial groups who felt they could not afford health care were more likely to report racial discrimination.
  • Poor health was associated with perceived discrimination among African Americans and Whites, but not Hispanics.

The authors call for additional research to explain the link between perceived discrimination and poor health and also to identify ways to reduce the perception of racial discrimination in health care.