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Grant to develop ways to measure medical mistrust in African-American men

Jul. 19, 2018, 10:14 AM


Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been awarded a two-year, $250,000 grant by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop new ways to measure trust in African-American men as it relates to health care.

African-American men have some of the lowest rates of health care utilization and satisfaction in the United States, which is often attributed to the higher rates of medical mistrust observed among that population.

Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI

“We’ve found that lack of trust is a huge barrier to accessing health care, adhering to treatment regimens, establishing relationships with health care professionals and participating in research,” said co-principal investigator Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, associate professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt and executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Medical Alliance. “We need to find a systematic approach to improve trust.”

Measuring trust in health care is challenging, and no current methods take into account the unique historical, social and cultural factors that influence feelings of trust among African-American men, said Derek Griffith, PhD, professor of Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University and director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health.

Derek Griffith, PhD

“African-American men’s trust may be influenced by past abuses like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, previous bad experiences with a health care system, a perceived lack of respect by medical professionals or other concerns specific to this population,” Griffith said.

Developing an accurate measurement of trust in African-American men is the first step toward addressing medical mistrust, helping more African-American men feel comfortable seeking out health care, have greater confidence in their treatment and ultimately improving their health outcomes.

Using focus groups and surveys, the researchers will explore what trust and mutual respect look like to African-American men in health care settings, what drives that trust, what they perceive as respect from health care providers and how well those measurements work across a variety of age cohorts.

Ken Wallston, PhD, emeritus professor of Nursing and an expert in the development of psychometric instruments, will consult on the project.

In addition to identifying salient features and measurements of medical trust among African-American men, the researchers’ findings will inform policy and practice recommendations for increasing trust, mutual respect and health care seeking among African-American men.

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