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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Rutgers: Paper Outlines How Social Inequality Drives Medical Mistrust

Rutgers School of Public Health Dean, Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, along with post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Jessica Jaiswal, outline how social inequality drives medical mistrust for a special issue of Behavioral Medicine.

In recent years, the popular press has documented the growing mistrust of medical advances by various populations, who often face overt and state-sanctioned discrimination in healthcare settings. Medical mistrust stems from historical and ongoing injustices experienced by socially and economically marginalized groups.

The negative consequences associated with medical mistrust are innumerable, including lower utilization of healthcare services and poorer management of health conditions. The majority of medical mistrust literature focuses on people of color, particularly Black and African American people, and to a lesser degree, sexual minority individuals, as these populations tend to disproportionately experience worse health outcomes that are propagated by minority stressors. Most public health and medical literature focusing on mistrust in these populations is at least, in part, citing the Tuskegee study as an instigator.

Medical mistrust has been conceptualized as a “cultural barrier,” insinuating that such mistrust is a characteristic of populations. This framing is problematic in that it situates the onus to overcome medical mistrust on the population experiencing structural, social, political, and economic exclusion and marginalization, rather than the institutions and entities that created environments that engender mistrust and sustain institutionalized inequalities.

Articles in the special issue are available for free download until the end of August.

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