Getting Detailed Information from Surveys of 14 Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups on Health Care Discrimination and the Health Care System

Expanding public opinion health care data to include information on detailed racial and ethnic subgroups

Researchers at Harvard University School of Public Health conducted two telephone surveys of randomly selected U.S. adults representing 14 racial and ethnic minority groups, plus White Americans, in 2006 and 2007. The first survey focused primarily on perceptions of health care disparities, while the second asked primarily about quality of physician care.

Most research combines a number of subgroups into a single classification, such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans. Recognizing that this may mask importance differences within each group, these surveys collected data at a finer level of granularity. For example, researchers looked at three populations of African Americans: those born in the United States, in Africa and in the Caribbean.

Key Findings

  • According to Robert J. Blendon, ScD, the project director, and findings that were published in two Health Affairs articles:

    • Racial/ethnic subgroups are not homogenous in their perceptions of the health care system. The range of survey responses demonstrates the importance of examining population subgroups, rather than limiting research to broader racial/ethnic categories.
    • Regardless of socioeconomic status, a substantial proportion of survey respondents in many ethnic subgroups reported discrimination in receiving health care. Many felt they would not receive the best available care if they were sick.
    • Inadequate insurance coverage and language difficulties between patient and physician correlated with the perception among respondents in many ethnic subgroups that they receive poorer health care than White Americans.

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