The health care system is also seen as contributing to the problem: 49 percent say a major reason why Black people generally have worse health outcomes is because health care providers are less likely to give Black people the most advanced medical care.  

Large majorities of Black postgraduates (78 percent) and college graduates (76 percent) say less access to quality medical care is a major reason Black people have worse health outcomes than other adults in the U.S., compared with 67 percent of those with some college experience and 51 percent of Black adults with a high school diploma or less education.

Younger Black adults are more likely than older adults to cite actions from hospitals and medical centers: 50 percent of those under age 50 say hospitals and medical centers giving lower priority to their well-being is a major reason why Black people have worse health outcomes; 43 percent of Black adults 50 and older say the same.

Overall, 47 percent think health outcomes for Black people have gotten a lot or a little better over the last 20 years.  Still, 31 percent say they have stayed about the same and 20 percent think they have gotten a lot or a little worse.

A majority of Black Americans give positive ratings of their recent health care, but can also point to negative experiences in the past.  A majority (61 percent) rate the quality of care they’ve received from doctors or other health care providers recently as excellent (25 percent) or very good (36 percent). A quarter describe the quality as good, while just 11 percent say it was fair and only 3 percent describe the quality of care they’ve received most recently as poor.  

Those with higher incomes report more positive recent experiences with doctors and other health care providers than do those with lower incomes.  

A majority of Black adults report at least one negative interaction with doctors and other health care providers at some point in the past – that was 56 percent who say they’ve had at least one of several negative experiences with doctors or other health care providers at some point in their lives.

One focus group respondent described their experience this way: “I had a situation where I had to go through about two different doctors until I was able to get the results that I was requesting, because they did not believe that the issues that I had were valid, or that they were as serious as I made them out to be. It’s kind of been an ongoing thing, so I’m always leery when I’m talking to physicians.  I don’t trust them just because they are doctors.  I know they have the Hippocratic Oath, but it feels like it’s a little different when they deal with African American patients.  And I don’t care if it’s an African American physician or White physicians.” – Black woman, 25-39

When it comes to treatments for pain, 35 percent of Black adults say they’ve felt the pain they were experiencing was not taken seriously either recently (11 percent) or in past interactions (23 percent) with doctors and other health care providers.

About three-in-ten Black adults (32 percent) say they’ve felt rushed by their health care provider and 29 percent say they’ve felt they were treated with less respect than other patients, either recently or in past experiences with doctors and other health care providers. Similarly, 29 percent say they’ve felt they’ve received lower quality medical care at some point; 70 percent of Black adults say this has not happened to them.

Here are a few of the comments from focus group participants about getting treatment for pain.

“Well, my husband’s condition (trigeminal neuralgia), it requires a narcotic. And before we got [to current health care provider] for so long, a lot of people just assumed that he was a junkie, like he was just coming in and trying to get pain medication and they wanted to put him on this rotation that just didn’t work, wanted him to take this Tylenol.  And it was so frustrating.” – Black woman, age 25-39

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