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People of color expect to experience discrimination during health care visits, survey finds

A trip to the doctor’s office can be stressful, but many people of color in the US say they also expect to experience discrimination while seeking health care, according to a KFF Survey on Racism, Discrimination and Health released Tuesday.

Sixty-percent of Black adults; about half of American Indian, Alaska Native and Hispanic adults; and 42% of Asian adults surveyed said they prepare for medical visits by expecting insults from health care workers, or by being very careful about their appearance at least some of the time.

The survey also found many people of color reported that providers blamed them for their medical issues, ignored their questions and refused to prescribe pain medication.

“The survey really illustrates how persistent and prevalent racism and discrimination remain in the US, both in daily life but including in people’s health care experiences,” Samantha Artiga, KFF director of racial equity and health policy, told CNN.

Outside of unfair treatment in doctor’s offices, the survey found at least half of American Indian, Alaska Native, Black and Hispanic adults say they’ve experienced at least one type of discrimination in daily life at least a few times in the past year. About 4 in 10 Asian adults reported the same.

“This includes experiences such as receiving poor services in restaurants and stores, people acting as if they are afraid of them or as if they aren’t smart, being threatened or harassed, or being criticized for speaking a language other than English,” Artiga said.

Gender also plays a role, KFF’s first report on the survey pointed out, with Black men being the most likely to say people act scared of them and Hispanic women most likely to say they’re treated as if they’re unintelligent.

Artiga told CNN there’s a direct correlation between discrimination and health and well-being. “People who report having experiences with discrimination in daily life are more likely than those who don’t to report feeling anxious, lonely and depressed,” she said.

“As a result of historic and ongoing policies often rooted in discriminatory practices, there are stark differences in access to resources, opportunities, and power by race and ethnicity in the US,” the KFF report noted, “including access to safe housing and neighborhoods, economic and educational opportunities, and health care.”

KFF, a health policy nonprofit previously called the Kaiser Family Foundation, says it will release more reports on the data in the future.

“Addressing these disparities we see in health and health care experiences is not only important from a social justice standpoint but also for ultimately improving the overall health and well-being as a nation going forward,” said Artiga.

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