Latinos likely to skip cancer screening, distrust medical providers

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    While found to be mistrustful of doctors, experts feel Hispanics would benefit from medical providers who shared their culture. (Shutterstock photo)

    Hispanics and non-college-educated patients are almost twice as likely to report feeling used as “guinea pigs” by medical health professionals when compared to non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks, reveals data compiled by the Moffitt Cancer Center.

    That distrust of medical professionals had a direct impact on the number of Hispanics willing to receive cancer screenings, indicated study researchers in a press release.

    The results, published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, led researchers to conclude health care providers need to increase professional awareness about Hispanics’ fears and cultural concept of health, and do a better job of instilling trust and dispelling the concerns among the Hispanic population.

    “Developing rapport and a trusting relationship requires effective communication skills,” study author B. Lee Green, PhD, Vice President at Moffitt Diversity, Senior Member of Health Outcomes and Behavior and Co-Director for the Center for Equal Health, told VOXXI.

    Green explained communication barriers were often significant contributors to Hispanic distrust of medical providers.

    “When there are communication barriers between the patient and physician, the ability to build that kind of relationship breaks down, making it difficult for the physician to assess the patient and for the patient to receive adequate health information,” he said. “Much of this has to do with the quality of the interaction or quality of the encounter.  If the quality of the encounter is poor that can lead to distrust.”

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    B. Lee Green, PhD, Vice President at Moffitt Diversity, Senior Member of Health Outcomes and Behavior, and Co-Director for the Center for Equal Health (Photo courtesy of B. Lee Green)

    Green’s study targeted the reason behind recent disparities noted among minorities and cancer screening numbers, something few other research projects have attempted.

    According to the research team, those disparities were particularly concerning because of the potential for severe adverse health implications due to screening avoidance. As the data indicated, a mistrust of medical providers was one of the reasons Hispanics lag behind when it comes to cancer screenings.

    A fear and mistrust of medical providers is not unique to the Hispanic population, however, explains Green, Hispanics and other minorities may relate better to physicians of the same ethnicity.

    “The distrust issue is one that cuts across all populations.  This is particularly true for those individuals who may be uninsured or low income,” he told VOXXI. “There tends to be more conflict with the health care system in these cases.  There may also be issues with the consistency of the care that they receive.”

    Green’s study did not examine this particular issue however.

    “But the patient/provider concordance may play a small factor.  Trust may be higher in physicians who come from their same racial/ethnic background or institutions that reflect the diversity of the community,” explained Green. “So pipeline programs that increase the numbers of minority physicians are vitally important.”

    To address the issue of mistrust between Hispanic patients and their medical providers, Green recommends improving patient-provider communication, offering culturally and linguistically appropriate materials and care to the patient, and increasing health literacy levels so patients feel empowered and involved in their personal medical decisions.

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