Addressing the Issue of Mistrust Among Black Men for the Medical Establishment

Scholars at Stanford University and the University of Tennessee have published a working paper through the National Bureau of Economic Research that examines the lingering effect of distrust for the medical establishment among African American men today resulting from the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. From 1932 to 1972, 600 African American men participated in the study that was operated by the U.S. Public Health Service. Two thirds of these men had syphilis and were not treated so that scientists could observe how the disease progressed. Penicillin was found to be an effective treatment for syphilis in 1945.

The researchers established an effort to evaluate the willingness of Black men in Oakland, California, to seek preventive health screenings. They used barber shops in predominantly Black neighborhoods as recruitment sites and sent out African American health professionals to recruit participants. While encountering considerable lingering mistrust of the medical establishment, researchers found that if they eliminated barriers such as access to health care facilities, transportation, and lack of medical insurance, Black men became considerably more willing to participate in preventive screenings.

Owen Garrick, president of Bridge Clinical research, an Oakland-based organization dedicated to increased diversity in clinical research, participated in the recruitment process. He notes that “if you push through the issue of mistrust, they you really begin to reap the benefits of the wealth our health care system.”

The paper, “Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men,” may be downloaded by clicking here.

A video about the study can be viewed below.

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