The California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) has released a study that found Black Californians are highly engaged with their health care, are active in advocating for their health and have strong and clear opinions about how the healthcare system can be improved.

“I think it’s surprising because of the pervasive myths about noncompliance among Black patients,” said Shakari Byerly, managing partner of EVITARUS, a Los Angeles based Black-owned public opinion research firm which designed, conducted and analyzed the research. “The fact is that our traditional foods may not be as healthy. While that may have some degree of anecdotal resonance, what we’re seeing broadly is that people are working very hard.”

The data that was collected showed that 90% of Black Californians say that they have health insurance coverage, and 92% of respondents said that they have seen a doctor or healthcare provider in the last year. 

Most people reported putting “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of effort into getting screenings and preventative care, tracking health indicators like blood pressure and cholesterol, and working to maintain a healthy weight. Four out of five reported focusing “a great deal” or “quite a bit” on mental health.

One in three Black Californians and nearly half (47%) of Black women say they experienced inadequate treatment for pain by their health care provider. 

Nearly one in three Black Californians were found to be treated unfairly by a healthcare provider because of their race or ethnicity, and more than one in four Black Californians avoid care due to concerns that they will be treated unfairly or with disrespect. Unfair experiences are most common among Black Californians with mental health conditions, disabilities, identifying as LGBTQIA+, and women.

The study found that Black Californians have clear opinions on how to improve the health care system. Strong majorities (75%<) expressed that it is extremely important or very important to increase Black representation among health care leadership and in the healthcare workforce. The majority in each age group said that it was at least somewhat important to have a Black or African-American doctor. 

According to data released by the American Medical Association, 10% of medical school matriculants in 2021 self-identified as Black, or a combination of Black and Asian, Hispanic, or White.

“There needs to be additional support. Financial support. Upfront financial support, for those who want to be doctors. In nursing there’s also a need for financial support, but there’s also not a standard for advising people about the most efficient, most successful pathways to nursing careers… That’s a problem that can be corrected,” CHCF senior program officer Katherine Haynes told California Black Media. 

Haynes recommended solutions for those experiencing healthcare problems: “You can report it to your health plan. You can return it to the state licensing board. You can contact the Department of Managed Health Care, which oversees health plans and to the Office of the Patient Advocate. Those are your rights,” said Haynes. “I will tell you that if you file a grievance versus a complaint, it poses legal liability and so those things that rise to that, or look like they might rise to that, are much more likely to get a response from a health care system.”­

Our Weekly coverage of local news in Los Angeles County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.

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