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Pediatricians' pain-medication judgments affected by unconscious racial bias, says UW study
Date:3/19/2012

Pediatricians who show an unconscious preference for European Americans tend to prescribe better pain-management for white patients than they do for African-American patients, new University of Washington research shows.

Pediatricians responded to case scenarios involving medical treatments for white and African American patients for four common pediatric conditions.

"We're talking about subtle, unconscious attitudes that are pervasive in society. Because these are unconscious attitudes, doctors aren't aware that their racial attitudes may affect their treatment decisions," said Janice Sabin, a UW research assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education, a part of UW's School of Medicine.

She is lead author of the study published March 15 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Sabin's previous research showed that pediatricians display less unconscious race bias than other medical doctors or the general population. Still, unconscious beliefs can affect how doctors interact with patients, and the current study reveals that those attitudes can influence doctors' treatment decisions.

"Coupled with known racial and ethnic disparities in health care, our findings suggest that well-meaning physicians may unconsciously treat people differently in some areas of care," said Sabin.

Among the 86 pediatricians who participated in the study, 65 percent were female, 82 percent were white and 59 percent were medical residents or fellows. They completed three Implicit Association Tests to measure unconscious attitudes and beliefs.

The test was developed in 1998 by Anthony Greenwald, a co-author and a UW psychology professor. The test measures implicit attitudes by asking participants to quickly classify several series of words or visual images as they appear on a computer screen. The patterns of speeds in response to varied classification instructions can reveal
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Contact: Molly McElroy
mollywmc@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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