February 24, 2024
Racial Health Disparities

Strategies to Improve Racial Health Disparities Can Have Negative Consequences

Efforts to address the racial health disparities in the United States may sometimes do more harm than good. A recent report from the University of Michigan suggests that strategies aimed at increasing patient engagement with health information can backfire, particularly when targeting Black Americans. These targeted health campaigns, which seek to address low engagement among marginalized races, may inadvertently lead to feelings of unfair judgement based on race.

The study, published in Science and based on research from the October issue of the Journal of Communication, was conducted by psychologist Allison Earl from the University of Michigan and her colleague Veronica Derricks from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The researchers wanted to understand the impact of efficient information-targeting on communication strategies, specifically among Black Americans who experience social identity threat.

“We find that targeting information based on marginalized racial identities predicts decrements in attention, trust, and willingness to engage in message-relevant behavior among Black Americans who experience social identity threat,” explained Earl, who is an associate professor of psychology.

The findings highlight a critical need for effective interventions to address the disparities in healthcare. Despite the existence of these disparities, efforts to garner support for policies to tackle them have had limited success. It is evident that there is a pressing need for solutions that can effectively change behavior and improve outcomes.

There are several factors within the medical field that contribute to minority patients not receiving the proper health information. One issue is the presence of racial biases among clinicians, which can influence clinical decision-making. In addition, policies and resource allocation can negatively impact Black Americans’ access to quality healthcare. These disparities include unequal distribution of resources, such as vaccines, as well as limited clinic locations and hours.

The October study by Derricks and Earl specifically focused on the impact of targeted health messages on Black Americans’ attention and trust. The findings revealed that Black Americans who received targeted health messages about HIV or the flu reported decreased attention to the messages and reduced trust in the providers. In contrast, white Americans did not display differential responses to targeting.

Despite the persistence of health inequities, the report highlights the lack of interest and action from politicians, policymakers, and the general public in effectively addressing these disparities. In some cases, there may even be active efforts to maintain these gaps. This underscores the urgency for comprehensive and equitable solutions that can bridge the divide and ensure equitable access to healthcare for all racial and ethnic groups.

In conclusion, while strategies to improve racial health disparities are essential, it is crucial to ensure that they are implemented without inadvertently perpetuating inequities. Addressing racial biases within the medical field, advocating for policies that promote equal access to quality healthcare, and tailoring communication strategies to avoid reinforcing social identity threats are vital steps towards achieving health equity for all.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it