News Release

What the Data Show: Black Women Report More Pervasive Negative Experiences in Health Care Compared to Other Groups

A new analysis of data from KFF’s Survey on Racism, Discrimination, and Health shows Black women are more likely than other groups to report being treated unfairly by a health care provider in recent years because of their race and ethnicity and that these experiences have health consequences.

For example, among Black women who used health care in the past three years, 34% report at least one of three consequences because of a negative experience with a health care provider for any reason: worse health (13%), being less likely to seek care (19%), or switching providers (27%).

The findings shift with Black women’s health status: Black women who describe their physical and/or mental health as fair or poor are more likely than those who report better health to say that a negative experience resulted in worse health, being less likely to seek care, or switching providers in the past three years. In fact, about half (49%) of Black women with fair or poor mental health status say they experienced at least one of these consequences.

Although overall, most Black women report positive experiences receiving health care, they are more likely than other groups to report being treated unfairly by a health care provider because of their race and ethnicity (21%) and to say they prepare for possible insults or must be very careful about their appearance to be treated fairly during health care visits (61%).  The survey suggests such preparations—behaviors documented in other research areas as “heightened vigilance”—may be a response to past experiences.

Reflecting the importance of racial and ethnic diversity in the health care workforce, a shared racial and ethnic background between provider and patient is associated with more positive interactions for Black women. The survey finds that Black women who have more health care visits with providers who share their racial and ethnic background report more frequent positive and respectful interactions.

KFF’s  Survey on Racism, Discrimination and Health is a probability-based survey conducted online and by telephone, June 6-August 7, 2023, with a total of 1,306 women who identify as Black. Respondents were contacted via mail or telephone; and had the choice to complete the survey in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese. The survey methodology was developed by KFF researchers in collaboration with SSRS and SSRS managed sampling, data collection, weighting, and tabulation. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the sample of Black women.

Additional resources from the Survey on Racism, Discrimination and Health:

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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.