Patients who have faced some sort of racism during their lives could be at greater risk of health failures than those who haven't, according to a joint study by the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.
The study analyzed perceptions of societal racism among 42 African-Americans treated at Yale-New Haven Hospital, age 50 and older with type II diabetes. Ninety-five percent of the participants said they have encountered some form of racism and, according to the study, how they responded to the incidents could impact their overall health. Women and people of lower socioeconomic status tended to respond "passively" while men and people of higher economic status tended to respond "actively." The study found that participants who rated their own health as "fair/poor" had responded to racial events passively, while those who rated their own health as "good/excellent" were more vocal in their responses.
Sandra Moody-Ayers, M.D., a geriatrician at the VA medical center and lead author of the study, said that African-Americans historically have been found to have worse health outcomes than whites and that the study is an attempt to address some of the reasons why. Despite the small sample size, Moody-Ayers said the results should act as a trigger for physicians to ask more probing questions about the patient's racial perceptions.