In this study, we wanted to know more about what factors had an effect on a person’s health behaviors and attitudes about health care. We examined the habits of Seventh-Day Adventists in California and the US southern states. We found differences in participant’s attitudes, perceptions, and experiences with health care between the two groups.
When compared with California participants, Southern participants expressed more positive experiences with healthcare providers. However, Southern participants were less trusting of their healthcare providers, and reported more mistrust about the healthcare system. They tended to believe that racism and other inequalities remained within the healthcare system. We also found that Southern participants were more often long-term church members, more involved in church life, attended religious services more often, and reported that religious beliefs were important in their day-to-day lives. California participants tended to report receiving only fair quality health care. Tlicy were somewhat less likely to link individual behavior to health status, and reported less of a sense of control over their health.
The study confirmed our suspicions that social settings and broader social forces help to shape the attitudes and opinions of racial and ethnic minorities toward health care. Some of the lessons we learned include:
- different approaches may be necessary when recruiting African Americans to research protocols
- varied approaches to providing health care for this population may also be warranted.
- the Mack church might be effective in providing health promotion and community health projects.
Researchers and healthcare providers must know the community to which they want to practice health care and from which they want to recruit participants to research studies. Where racism still exists, it is important for healthcare providers to acknowledge past abuses and move toward a more trusting future.
It is also very important for patients to communicate with their healthcare providers about their experiences with the healthcare system and other providers. Patient and physician or research communication is important for building trusting relationships. Providers need to help patients feel comfortable receiving health care and medical advice, as well as assisting them to navigate the complex healthcare system.
We must ensure that the public debates about healthcare reform include efforts that encourage providers and patients to understand one another and work toward the common goal of promoting human health and wellbeing. If patients don’t trust the healthcare system or hold little confidence in it, they will not interact appropriately with it and the goals of promoting health and well being will be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.