Race/ethnic discrimination and preventive service utilization in a sample of whites, blacks, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans

Med Care. 2012 Oct;50(10):870-6. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e31825a8c63.


Background: Race/ethnic discrimination is associated with poorer mental and physical health, worse health behaviors, and increased mortality, in addition to overall race/ethnic disparities in health. More specifically, it has been suggested as a possible determinant of the significant race/ethnic differences in the quantity and quality of medical care received by individuals in the United States.

Objectives: The current study examines the association between 3 measures of racial/ethnic discrimination (Experiences of Discrimination, Everyday Discrimination Scale and discrimination in health care) and 6 types of preventive services (mammogram, clinical breast examination, Pap smear, colonoscopy/sigmoidoscopy, blood pressure screening, and diabetes screening).

Research design: Frequencies and correlations are run within a population-based sample of 1699 respondents from Chicago that includes whites, African Americans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans. Adjusted logistic regression models are run separately by race/ethnicity.

Results: Findings show that levels of perceived discrimination vary between all race/ethnic groups, with blacks consistently reporting the highest levels and whites the lowest. Discrimination is only inconsistently related to obtaining screenings for cancer, hypertension, and diabetes. The few significant relationships found differed both by measure of discrimination and the respondents' race and ethnicity.

Conclusions: Given the growing diversity in the United States and the prevalence of discrimination, more research regarding its impact on health care utilization is needed. Only when all the factors influencing patient behaviors are better understood will policies and interventions designed to improve them be successful. These are important steps that will help attain our national goals of eliminating race/ethnic disparities in health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prejudice*
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Puerto Rico / epidemiology
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / ethnology
  • Young Adult