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Healthcare System for Native and African Americans

Historical events contributing to mistrust of the health care system

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, conducted for three decades between 1932 and 1972, is of appalling in American history. The study contributed significantly to the existing mistrust of the health care system. The Native American researchers conducting the study did not treat the African-American patients suffering from syphilis although they had effective medication for the condition. Therefore, the researchers unfairly denied the patients the chance to recover from syphilis (Gray, 1998). This is among the many historical events that contribute to the existing mistrust of the health care system. While the Native American researchers had discovered successful penicillin for the treatment of syphilis, they withheld it from the African-American syphilis patients. This situation was unwarranted because many patients could have recovered from syphilis.

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The researchers also failed to request the consent of the participants before involving them in the research. Besides, the researchers failed to provide the participants with relevant and valuable information relating to their medical conditions. For instance, the researchers failed to reveal the purpose of the research, the nature of the participants’ health conditions and the availability of effective medication. For example, the researchers advised the participants to accept injections in the lumbar to heal their conditions. However, this was not true because the injections were not therapeutic (Gray, 1998).

As Reverby (2009) indicates, the Native-American researchers lured the participants with $1 and an annual certificate for participating in the study. The study was doubtful because it lacked a professional approach. Moreover, it was difficult to analyze the findings of the clinical trials. Civil rights groups opposed the study on ethical and moral grounds because the researchers denied the participants effective treatment although they readily offered them cash rewards and hot meals.

Steps to reduce health disparities among Native Americans and African Americans

The African American population is the second-largest among the minority groups in the United States. As of 2007, the African American population was nearly 40.7 million. This clearly shows that there is a need to reduce the many health disparities that exist in the United States. Purnell (2013) states that the African American population experiences an “excessive burden of disease.” Some of the factors that contribute to health disparities include income, education and occupation. Health indicators relating to the factors above are worse among African Americans than among Native Americans. This means that African Americans are likely to face many health conditions, especially the ones associated with challenging life conditions, low income, adverse health behaviors, failure to exercise and lack of access to primary health care.

According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy (n.d), reducing health disparities in the U.S. is essential because it would contribute a lot in reducing health care costs and promoting a healthier population. Addressing the issues of language, race and culture is a critical step in reducing the disparities in health care. Studies indicate that the various factors affecting minority groups such as the lack of insurance, communication problems and discrepancy in treatments could have a considerable effect on health care. It is also critical to address the issues of housing, income and the environment because the disparities occur due to both internal and external dynamics affecting the health care system. Studies have linked disparities in health care to various factors including employment status, earning levels and level of affluence. In addition, housing situations and levels of education also contribute to the disparities. Therefore, improving the factors above among African Americans would contribute a lot in reducing the disparities in health care. Lastly, health care providers should be more sensitive and aware of the cultural differences among the different cultural groups. Improving the cultural aptitude of health workers is essential because it would facilitate effective communication with patients of all cultural backgrounds.


Center for Medicare Advocacy. (n.d). Health disparities 101: Why eliminating health disparities should be included in health care reform. Web.

Gray, F. D. (1998). The Tuskegee syphilis study: The real story and beyond. Montgomery, AL: NewSouth Books.

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Purnell, L. D. (2013). Transcultural health care: A culturally competent approach. Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis Company.

Reverby, S. (2009). Examining Tuskegee: The infamous syphilis study and its legacy. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

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