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Race/Ethnic Discrimination and Preventive Service Utilization in a Sample of Whites, Blacks, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans

Benjamins, Maureen R. PhD

doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e31825a8c63
Original Articles

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.

Sinai Urban Health Institute, Chicago, IL

Supported by the American Cancer Society, IL Division (#183618).

The author declares no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Maureen R. Benjamins, PhD, Sinai Urban Health Institute, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Room K443, 1500 S. California Ave., Chicago, IL 60608. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.