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The medical community has long known that racial bias in health care results in health disparities for Black Americans. New research adds evidence from patients’ perspectives.

A new study from the Urban Institute found that Black parents report that they and their children have experienced unfair treatment when seeking medical care at a higher rate than other racial and ethnic groups.

Researchers based their analysis on 2,981 parents of children under the age of 19. They asked the parents to what extent they were exposed to bias.

Nearly one-quarter of Black parents (22 percent) reported unfair treatment, a rate that was 10 percent higher than parents of other racial and ethnic groups, according to the study released on July 31.

At the same time, 9 percent of Black parents said that their children were treated or judged unfairly in health care settings because of their or their child’s race, ethnicity, country of origin or primary language. That figure is three times higher than the 3 percent of all parents who reported the same experience.

Dulce Gonzalez, a senior researcher at the Urban Institute and co-author of the study, told CNN that the unfair treatment, especially of Black parents and their children, could have negative health consequences, including the decision to forgo necessary treatments.

Bias is an enduring problem in the American healthcare system – one that the National Institute of Health has examined. The agency has said that people of color experience disparities in access to care, quality of care and health outcomes, pointing to the “attitudes and behaviors of health care providers” as a contributing factor to the overall disparities.

“Most health care providers appear to have implicit bias in terms of positive attitudes toward Whites and negative attitudes toward people of color,” a 2015 NIH study concluded.

Gonzalez said changes are needed “on multiple fronts that address … not only sort-of implicit and explicit biases that providers and their staff could hold towards people of color but also just broader changes in how we’re delivering health care.”



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