The state of research on racial/ethnic discrimination in the receipt of health care

Am J Public Health. 2012 May;102(5):953-66. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300773.


Objectives: We conducted a review to examine current literature on the effects of interpersonal and institutional racism and discrimination occurring within health care settings on the health care received by racial/ethnic minority patients.

Methods: We searched the PsychNet, PubMed, and Scopus databases for articles on US populations published between January 1, 2008 and November 1, 2011. We used various combinations of the following search terms: discrimination, perceived discrimination, race, ethnicity, racism, institutional racism, stereotype, prejudice or bias, and health or health care. Fifty-eight articles were reviewed.

Results: Patient perception of discriminatory treatment and implicit provider biases were the most frequently examined topics in health care settings. Few studies examined the overall prevalence of racial/ethnic discrimination and none examined temporal trends. In general, measures used were insufficient for examining the impact of interpersonal discrimination or institutional racism within health care settings on racial/ethnic disparities in health care.

Conclusions: Better instrumentation, innovative methodology, and strategies are needed for identifying and tracking racial/ethnic discrimination in health care settings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethnicity*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Perception
  • Prejudice
  • Racial Groups*
  • Research Design
  • Stereotyping