A healthy mistrust: How worldview relates to attitudes about breast cancer screening in a cross-sectional survey of low-income women

Ann Carroll Klassen, Katherine C. Smith, Salma Shariff-Marco, Hee Soon Juon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Perceived racial discrimination is one factor which may discourage ethnic minorities from using healthcare. However, existing research only partially explains why some persons do accept health promotion messages and use preventive care, while others do not. This analysis explores 1) the psychosocial characteristics of those, within disadvantaged groups, who identify their previous experiences as racially discriminatory, 2) the extent to which perceived racism is associated with broader perspectives on societal racism and powerlessness, and 3) how these views relate to disadvantaged groups' expectation of mistreatment in healthcare, feelings of mistrust, and motivation to use care. Methods. Using survey data from 576 African-American women, we explored the prevalence and predictors of beliefs and experiences related to social disengagement, racial discrimination, desired and actual racial concordance with medical providers, and fear of medical research. We then used both sociodemographic characteristics, and experiences and attitudes about disadvantage, to model respondents' scores on an index of personal motivation to receive breast cancer screening, measuring screening knowledge, rejection of fatalistic explanatory models of cancer, and belief in early detection, and in collaborative models of patient-provider responsibility. Results. Age was associated with lower motivation to screen, as were depressive symptoms, anomie, and fear of medical research. Motivation was low among those more comfortable with African-American providers, regardless of current provider race. However, greater awareness of societal racism positively predicted motivation, as did talking to others when experiencing discrimination. Talking was most useful for women with depressive symptoms. Conclusion. Supporting the Durkheimian concepts of both anomic and altruistic suicide, both disengagement (depression, anomie, vulnerability to victimization, and discomfort with non-Black physicians) as well as over-acceptance (low awareness of discrimination in society) predict poor health maintenance attitudes in disadvantaged women. Women who recognize their connection to other African-American women, and who talk about negative experiences, appear most motivated to protect their health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalInternational journal for equity in health
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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