Survey Shows Medical and Science Fields Need to Do More to Gain the Trust of Black Americans

History has given the African American community plenty of reason to distrust the science and medical communities. Among these are forced sterilizations, eugenics, craniometry, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, scientific racism, phrenology, and the unauthorized use of cells from Henrietta Lacks.

A new Pew Research Center survey takes a wide-ranging look at Black Americans’ views and experiences with science today, spanning medical and health care settings, educational settings, and as consumers of science-related news and information in daily life.

The survey found that less than 30 percent of Black adults in the United States believe scientists, engineering, and medical doctors are welcoming to African Americans.

About half of Black Americans say that science has had a mostly positive effect on society, compared to 68 percent of Whites. Among Black adults, 43 percent say that science has had an equal mix of positive and negative effects

A third of Black Americans say that medical researchers do a good job all or most of the time and another 46 percent say this occurs some of the time. Roughly two-in-ten say this happens only a little or none of the time.

Just one-in-ten Black adults say that medical research scientists take responsibilty for their mistakes. Half of all Black adults say this happens only a little or none of the time.

Some 55 percent of Black adults describe misconduct by medical research scientists as a moderate or very big problem.

More than half of Black adults say they’ve had at least one of several negative experiences with health care providers in the past, such as feeling they had to speak up to get the proper care or that the pain they were experiencing was not being taken seriously.


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