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Ethn Dis. 2010 Winter;20(1):40-7.

Perceived racial discrimination in health care and its association with patients' healthcare experiences: does the measure matter?

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  • 1Health Services Research & Development Service, Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, USA.



Examine whether three measures of perceived racial discrimination in health care detect similar rates of discrimination and show similar associations with patients' healthcare experiences.


Cross-sectional observational study involving telephone surveys and medical record reviews.


Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System.


50 White and 50 African American veterans with diabetes.


Three types of measures of perceived racial discrimination in health care were compared: single-item and multi-item measures assessing personal experiences of discrimination in healthcare settings, and a measure assessing general racism in the healthcare system. Associations of each measure with patient-reported problems with their medical care and receipt of recommended preventive screenings were also explored.


More African American than White veterans reported perceived discrimination on all measures (personal discrimination, single-item: 42% vs 6%, P<.001; personal discrimination, multi-item: 42% vs 18%, P=.01; general racism: 74% vs 40%, P=.001). In the total sample, discrimination was more likely to be reported on the general racism measure than on the single-item (OR=36.53, 95% CI=7.95-167.89) or multi-item measures (OR=20.28, 95% CI=5.12-80.34) of personal discrimination. The multi-item measure of personal discrimination (OR=3.96, 95% CI=1.29-12.18) and general racism measure (OR=3.61, 95% CI=1.34-9.71) were significantly associated with patient-reported problems with their care. Receipt of recommended screenings was not associated with any of the discrimination measures.


Different measures of perceived racial discrimination in healthcare settings yield different rates of discrimination and show variable associations with patients' perceptions of care.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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