Detangling the Impact of Social Class, Race, and Culture on the Health Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors of College-Educated African-American Women Open Access

Milliner, Brittany Renee (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/zk51vh32g?locale=en
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Abstract

Abstract

Detangling the Impact of Race, Social Class, and Culture on the Health Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors of College-Educated African-American Women

By: Brittany Milliner

Greater awareness of the influence of socioeconomic, racial, and cultural factors on the health
behaviors and beliefs of diverse US subpopulations may allow more personalized treatment plans
and intervention programs for minorities. Unfortunately, research has yet to identify the health
behaviors and beliefs of diverse US subpopulations through such a perspective. Most studies on
the health practices of the African-American community mainly examined the health behaviors
and folk beliefs of lower-class African-American women; few studies have independently
observed the health behaviors and attitudes of African-American women in higher social clases.
This study corrects this critical omission by providing information on the health practices of African-
American women who have achieved higher socioeconomic status from a college education.
African-American women between the ages of 20-80, who are members of a predominatly
African-American sorority and residents of the Metro-Atlanta area, were contacted for
recruitment in this study. I utilized a two-part methodology; I collected 106 survey responses and
conducted three focus groups to ascertain information on participant demographics, health
behaviors, experiences of racial discrimination, physician preferences, satisfaction with care, and
trust in the healthcare system. Study results have provided deeper insight into the health
attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of college-educated African-American women, including self-
treatment; delayed seeking of professional care; and the importance of balancing folk and
biomedical care, and researching treatment options. Age did not appear to impact the health
behaviors of study participants, indicating the cultural transmission of health behaviors and
attitudes, especially mistrust in the healthcare system and utilization of home remedies. While
college-educated African-American women may experience greater access to biomedical care,
participants aged 20-59 reported that the high cost of health care still prevented them from
seeking treatment when needed. This suggests gaps in the health care of study participants:
college-educated African-American women may not receive the preventative care they need
between the ages of 20-59 due to financial barriers to care.

Table of Contents

Table Of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction ………………………………………………………………................................1

About This Project
Health Behaviors and Beliefs
The Homogenous Classification of African-Americans
Factors Influencing Selection of a Healthcare Provider
Folk Medicine/Ethnomedicine
The Intersection of Social Class, Race, and Health

Chapter 2: Background and Literature Review ……………………………………….......................20
A History of the Exclusion of African-Americans from Mainstream Health Care
The Establishment and Continuation of Folk Medicinal Practices and Folk Beliefs
The Impact of Racial Discrimination on the Health Care of Contemporary African-American Women
Satisfaction with Care
Reducing Health Disparities Through Medical Anthropology

Chapter 3: Methodology …………………………………………………………………….........................47
Study Population
Study Design
Data Collection
Data Analysis
Limitations of This Study

Chapter 4: Culture and the Health Behaviors, Attitudes, and Beliefs of

African-American Women…………………………………………………………………............................56
Demographics of the Study Population
Treatment During Times of Sickness: Self-Care and Alternative Medicine Usage
"You Must Do Your Research"
A Healthy Balance Is Key; "Too Much of Anything Is Bad"
Delays in Seeking Biomedical Care

Chapter 5: Factors Impacting the Health Behaviors of African-American Women ….....….74
The Subtle Impact of Racial Discrimination
Feelings of Mistrust Toward an Unequal Healthcare System
A Strong Preference for African-American Female Physicians
Barriers to Care: High Costs and Self-Pride
Improving the Health Care of College-Educated African-American Women

Chapter 6: Discussion ……………………………………………………………………….....................100
Notions of Ideal Health Behaviors
The Factors That Shape Health Behaviors

Revisiting the Physician Preferences of African-American Women

The Benefits of Higher Education: Financial Security and Greater Access to Care

Implications of Study Results for the Health Care of African-Americans

Concluding Remarks

Bibliography ....................................................................................................................115

Appendix .........................................................................................................................124

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