By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media
In line with its commitment to ending health inequities, the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) has released the first phase of a three-part study documenting how race and racism shape the health care experiences of Californians. black.
The report, “In Their Own Words: Black Californians on Racism and Health Care,” was authored by health services researcher Dr. Linda Cummings. The study synthesizes hour-long interviews with 100 black Californians conducted from June to August 2021.
According to Katherine Haynes, Senior Program Officer with CHCF’s People Centered Care Team, “the project is about understanding the intersections between racism, health and health care.” The first phase “consists of in-depth interviews that are really designed to gain an in-depth understanding of how Black Californians perceive racism in the healthcare system in this state and how it impacts them.”
CHCF’s primary goal is to advance meaningful and measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to Californians, especially those who are financially challenged and whose needs are not are not well served in the health system.
EVITARUS, a Los Angeles-based, black-owned public opinion research firm, is conducting the three-phase study for CHCF. The company has extensive polling experience in California’s diverse precincts and has long-standing relationships with community organizations and black-led media outlets.
“Dr. Linda Cummings wrote the report and we did the research. We designed the study, performed the data collection as well as the data analysis that supported Dr. Cummings and his findings,” according to Shakari Byerly, Managing Partner of EVITARUS “This was an extensive recruitment process and selection of those who expressed an interest in participating. Participants also received an honorarium ($125) for their participation.”
Results from the first phase cautioned that simply having a black doctor did not automatically lead to better care. Negative experiences with black doctors and other healthcare providers of color can also be a barrier to health care.
“It’s the subtle microaggressions that happen in healthcare. So I resist getting help unless I feel comfortable with the person who may or may not look like me,” said a 33-year-old black woman from the San Francisco Bay Area. “But I was also discriminated against a lot by black doctors.”
Cummings wrote that more than half of the respondents said that at some point in their lives they had been homeless, without stable housing, or stayed with a family member or friend because they didn’t. had no accommodation of their own.
Notably, the study highlighted that participants took their health care seriously.
“Respondents really talked about how they were taking action to pursue their health, defending themselves in the health care system, and taking action to protect themselves from harm in the health care system,” Haynes said.
Almost all respondents (93%) had some form of health insurance. The majority were covered by employer-sponsored plans at 40% or Medi-Cal at 26%, the study reports.
The mix of attendees also reflected the ethnic diversity of Black Californians. The majority of respondents identified as Black or African American (83%), Black and Multiracial (6%), African (5%), Afro-Caribbean (4%), Afro-Latino (1%) and Black – Native Americans. (1%), said Byerly.
“Everyone has identified as black, but we recognize that people come from different backgrounds,” Byerly said. “This supports our search design to ensure we show a full range of our community in California.”
Byerly also shared that 62% of participants said they experienced “some type of discrimination” due to their background while obtaining health care for themselves. About 59% said they were treated unfairly when seeking health care for a family member, she added.
Phase II of the ‘Listening to Black Californians’ study examines ‘structural issues’ in the health care system gleaned from focus group discussions with Black Californians and key health care stakeholders,” Haynes said.
The third and final phase of the study will be a statewide survey of black California residents. It will be designed to assess how well the Phase I and Phase II outcomes are represented in the general population of Black Californians.
“The second phase, with 18 focus groups, was completed just before the winter holidays. Phase three will hopefully have over 3,000 black California participants,” Hayes said. “The final report is expected in the summer of 2022.”