Mistrusting the System

Delays in seeking health care attributed to mistrust of medical system among African-American men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Past studies have shown that men are less likely than women to seek routine
medical care because they do not want to appear weak. However, a new study has found that this may not be true for African-American men.

While many African-American men still delay going to the doctor, they do so for a different reason, according to Wizdom Powell Hammond, Ph.D., assistant professor of health behavior and health education at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Gilling School of Global Public Health and a member of UNC's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Using a survey given to 610 African-American men over the age of 20, Hammond and colleagues found that many of these men delay getting routine check-ups because of a mistrust of the health care system.

According to previous studies, men are less likely than women to routinely see a doctor. In addition, men wait much longer than women to seek treatment after the onset of symptoms. And a recent study from the New York Blood Center in Manhattan found that African-Americans donate blood at lower rates than whites because of significant distrust in the health care system.

In this new study, UNC researchers found that men who felt a stronger commitment to traditional masculine role norms were 23 percent less likely to delay blood pressure screening and 38 percent less likely to delay cholesterol screening, compared to men less committed to such norms. In other words, this study contradicts previous research: higher commitment to traditional masculinity is linked to decreased delays in seeking medical care, not increased delays.

Compared to men who had less mistrust, men who were highly mistrustful of the health care system were more than twice as likely to delay cholesterol screening and to avoid routine visits to the doctor. High levels of mistrust also increased the likelihood of delaying blood pressure testing by more than three times.

According to Hammond, the survey results show that men believe that taking blood pressure and cholesterol tests are a demonstration of their masculinity, not a denial of manhood or a sign of weakness. However, their mistrust of the medical system means that many of them are not receiving these important tests.

The authors conclude by calling for more studies that explore why many African-American men mistrust health care providers and the health care system. Understanding that mistrust will likely help to improve the health of African-American males.

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Last Updated:
January 31, 2011