Grant to develop method of measuring medical mistrust in African American men

Grant to develop method of measuring medical mistrust in African American men

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Vanderbilt University Medical Center has received a two-year, $250,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop a new way to measure trust in African American men as it relates to healthcare.


Lack of trust

African American men have some of the lowest rates of healthcare utilization and satisfaction in the United States, which is often attributed to the higher rates of medical mistrust observed among that population.

“We’ve found that lack of trust is a huge barrier to accessing healthcare, adhering to treatment regimens, establishing relationships with healthcare professionals and participating in research,” said co-principal investigator Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI, associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance. “We need to find a systematic approach to improve trust.”


Measuring trust

Measuring trust in healthcare is challenging, and no current methods take into account the unique historical, social and cultural factors that influence feelings of trust among African American men, said Derek Griffith, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University and Director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health. “African American men’s trust may be influenced by past abuses like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, previous bad experiences with a healthcare system, a perceived lack of respect by medical professionals or other concerns specific to this population.”


First step

Developing an accurate measurement of trust in African American men is the first step toward addressing medical mistrust, helping more African American men feel comfortable seeking out healthcare, have greater confidence in their treatment and ultimately improving their health outcomes.

Using focus groups and surveys, the researchers will explore what trust and mutual respect look like to African American men in healthcare settings, what drives that trust, what they perceive as respect from healthcare providers and how well those measurements work across a variety of age cohorts. Ken Wallston, Emeritus Professor of Nursing and expert in the development of psychometric instruments, will consult on the project.


Looking ahead

In addition to identifying salient features and measurements of medical trust among African American men, the researchers’ findings will inform policy and practice recommendations for increasing trust, mutual respect and healthcare-seeking among African American men.


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

Consuelo H. Wilkins, MD, MSCI and Derek Griffith, PhD