Knowledge of Tuskegee study doesn't increase medical mistrust

Knowledge of the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male (Tuskegee Study) does not increase distrust in medical care, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Most of those surveyed were unaware of the Tuskegee Study and, of those who had heard of it, most could not accurately answer multiple-choice questions about the study. The researchers also found that African-Americans were significantly more likely than whites to be mistrustful of medical care. The study is published in the July 2005 issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association.

"No other study explicitly assessed the association between knowledge of the Tuskegee Study and mistrust of medical care among African-Americans or racial differences in this relationship. Our findings indicate that for African-Americans, other factors, such as negative interactions with the health care system, are more important to mistrust than the Tuskegee Study," said Dwayne T. Brandon, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant scientist with the Bloomberg School's Department of Health Policy and Management.

The Tuskegee Study was carried out in Macon County, Alabama, from 1932 to 1972. U.S. Public Health Service researchers planned to record the natural history of syphilis. They withheld treatment from 600 poor, African-American men who had the disease, causing needless pain and suffering. The study participants were not told the purpose of the study, nor were they told if they were infected with syphilis.

The Hopkins researchers completed a telephone survey in the summer of 2003 of 277 African-American and 101 white adults, aged 18-93 years, living in Baltimore, Md. Only two-fifths of those interviewed had heard of the Tuskegee Study. Of those who had heard of it, most knew few details of the study. Almost half of both white and black respondents who had heard of the study thought the U.S. Army conducted it and 75 percent of blacks

Contact: Kenna L. Lowe
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

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