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Policy Insights Behav Brain Sci. 2014 Oct;1(1):204-212.

Reducing Racial Health Care Disparities: A Social Psychological Analysis.

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Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA.
University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA.
Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.


Large health disparities persist between Black and White Americans. The social psychology of intergroup relations suggests some solutions to health care disparities due to racial bias. Three paths can lead from racial bias to poorer health among Black Americans. First is the already well-documented physical and psychological toll of being a target of persistent discrimination. Second, implicit bias can affect physicians' perceptions and decisions, creating racial disparities in medical treatments, although evidence is mixed. The third path describes a less direct route: Physicians' implicit racial bias negatively affects communication and the patient-provider relationship, resulting in racial disparities in the outcomes of medical interactions. Strong evidence shows that physician implicit bias negatively affects Black patients' reactions to medical interactions, and there is good circumstantial evidence that these reactions affect health outcomes of the interactions. Solutions focused on the physician, the patient, and the health care delivery system; all agree that trying to ignore patients' race or to change physicians' implicit racial attitudes will not be effective and may actually be counterproductive. Instead, solutions can minimize the impact of racial bias on medical decisions and on patient-provider relationships.


bias in health care; disparities in health care; health disparities; implicit racial bias; minority health

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