Updated: Oct 15
It’s no secret that there is a higher level of mistrust in the healthcare system among minority groups. This lack of trust can lead to minorities being less willing to seek treatment and care from providers, and in turn have contributed to the elevated levels of health disparities within the minority community.
Mistrust (in the Black community at least) stems from many things, but notably, a history of non-consensual medical testing (i.e the Tuskegee experiment) and false medical theories used for oppression tactics (“runaway slave syndrome” and misdiagnosed schizophrenia).Even to this day, patient care is still not color blind (and some may argue that it shouldn’t be).
Although there needs to be a cultural awareness of how health disparities and access vary among racial groups, healthcare has yet to escape racism, bias, and prejudice. There has been recent media attention on instances where minorities are commonly misdiagnosed.
My classmates and I recently had a discussion on the role of cultural competency among medical professionals. Some of them had medical backgrounds, and felt that doctors had too much to worry about as it is, and that cultural competency would only slow down an already broken system. In my opinion, if all medical professionals did take the time to understand how much culture plays into health, it may actually ease their job in keeping patients healthy and alive in the long run.
If doctors took the time to understand the deep rooted mistrust that many have in the healthcare system, they may be able to better tailor treatment and medical advice to the individual, building trust, and improving outcomes.