Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

WashU: Legacy of Mistrust among African Americans Persists on Cancer Treatment

Mistrust toward breast cancer treatment and the health care system at large were expressed by African Americans who participated in Chicago focus groups, according to research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Researchers recruited 503 women and men from 15 of Chicago’s predominantly African-American South Side neighborhoods to participate in 49 focus groups. Participants cited feelings of being “treated like a guinea pig,” living the legacy of Tuskegee and other forms of experimentation on African Americans, and being maltreated due to race.

The risk of African-American women dying from breast cancer is estimated to be 41 percent higher than that of White women in the United States.

“These findings suggest that historical and contemporary incidents remain a point of debate,” wrote Dr. Sarah Gehlert, E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity at the Brown School, the senior author. “Findings warrant the promotion of increased cultural sensitivity amongst health professionals regarding this historically rooted mistrust and its present-day implications.”

The paper was published December 17, 2015 in Critical Public Health.

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