Understanding African Americans’ views of the trustworthiness of physicians

  • Elizabeth A. JacobsEmail author
  • Italia Rolle
  • Carol Estwing Ferrans
  • Eric E. Whitaker
  • Richard B. Warnecke
Original Articles


BACKGROUND: Many scholars have written about the historical underpinnings and likely consequences of African Americans distrust in health care, yet little research has been done to understand if and how this distrust affects African Americans’ current views of the trustworthiness of physicians.

OBJECTIVE: To better understand what trust and distrust in physicians means to African Americans.

DESIGN: Focus-group study, using an open-ended discussion guide.

SETTING: Large public hospital and community organization in Chicago, IL.

PATIENTS: Convenience sample of African-American adult men and women.

MEASUREMENTS: Each focus group was systematically coded using grounded theory analysis. The research team then identified themes that commonly arose across the 9 focus groups.

RESULTS: Participants indicated that trust is determined by the interpersonal and technical competence of physicians. Contributing factors to distrust in physicians include a lack of interpersonal and technical competence, perceived quest for profit and expectations of racism and experimentation during routine provision of health care. Trust appears to facilitate care-seeking behavior and promotes patient honesty and adherence. Distrust inhibits care-seeking, can result in a change in physician and may lead to nonadherence.

CONCLUSIONS: Unique factors contribute to trust and distrust in physicians among African-American patients. These factors should be considered in clinical practice to facilitate trust building and improve health care provided to African Americans.

Key words

trust distrust African Americans physicians 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth A. Jacobs
    • 1
    Email author
  • Italia Rolle
    • 2
  • Carol Estwing Ferrans
    • 3
  • Eric E. Whitaker
    • 4
  • Richard B. Warnecke
    • 5
  1. 1.John H. Stroger, Jr.Hospital of Cook County & Rush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA
  2. 2.National Center on Birth Defects & Developmental DisabilitiesCDCAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.University of Illinois at Chicago College of NursingChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Illinois Department of Public HealthChicagoUSA
  5. 5.University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health Center for Population Health and Health DisparitiesChicagoUSA

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