Racial/Ethnic Discrimination in Health Care

Perceived discrimination accounts for low ratings of the quality of health care received by African Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders after adjusting for patient characteristics and reports of access of care.

Researchers examined data from 36,831 respondents to the 2003 California Health Interview Survey to determine whether racial/ethnic disparities in perception of health care are mediated by the following measures:

  • Perceived discrimination.
  • Patient sociodemographic characteristics.
  • Patient experiences of care including access to care and individual physician ratings.

Asian/Pacific Islanders and African Americans were more likely to report lower ratings of care compared to non-Hispanic Whites. Hispanic Americans, in contrast, were more likely to report higher ratings of care compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

Racial/ethnic discrimination in health care was associated with lower quality rating for all groups, even after adjusting for sociodemographic and other factors. Feeling discriminated against fully accounted for the lower ratings of perceived quality of care by African Americans compared with Whites, but not for other racial/ethnic minorities.

Perceived discrimination has profound impacts on mental and physical health among African American, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander patients. Health care institutions should consider how to address this patient concern as a part of routine quality improvement efforts.