Why some communities are suspicious of doctors and public health efforts

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As the latest updates on COVID-19, the monkeypox virus, polio, and other health issues and concerns continue to circulate, a doctor pointed out that health care is very much like a product.

dr. Alexander Salerno, an internist in New Jersey, told Fox News Digital, “If you don’t trust the seller or the product, why buy it?”

Salerno works at Salerno Medical Associates, a second-generation family-run practice serving East Orange and Newark.

He told Fox News Digital that trust is the “glue” between doctors and patients — especially in underserved communities.

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“Lower confidence leads patients to fail to adhere to treatment or screening recommendations, and that in turn leads to reactive health care as opposed to preventive care,” he said.

An Italian resident is being vaccinated with the Jynneos vaccine at Spallanzani Hospital as Italy begins a vaccination campaign against monkey pox.  Photo taken in Rome, Italy, on August 8, 2022.

An Italian resident is being vaccinated with the Jynneos vaccine at Spallanzani Hospital as Italy begins a vaccination campaign against monkey pox. Photo taken in Rome, Italy, on August 8, 2022.
(Spallanzani Hospital/Handout via REUTERS)

Many working Americans have limited paid time off to go to the doctor, he said, so when this is combined with “customer service that is often indifferent on good days,” some people don’t seek health care until they can’t avoid it, Salerno said. .

He said that not only would making care more accessible, but also “less chores would help build trust.”

In the infamous Tuskegee experiment, the federal government left a group of black men in rural Alabama untreated for syphilis for 40 years for research purposes.

Some doctors and medical professionals also believe that the knowledge of the infamous Tuskegee experiment since 1972 still has repercussions.

This year of 2022 will mark 50 years since the public first learned that the federal government was denying a group of black men with active syphilis the proper treatment for the disease.

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The reason the treatment was withheld? To discover how the infectious disease would develop naturally in the human body over 40 years.

On July 25, 1972, the Associated Press ran the news that “turned the American medical establishment upside down,” as the AP itself noted.

Doctor and patient sitting together.

Doctor and patient sitting together.
(iStock)

The federal government, the AP’s Jean Heller reported, had let hundreds of black men in rural Alabama go untreated for syphilis for 40 years for research purposes.

There was a public outcry – and the “Tuskegee Syphilis Study” ended three months later.

The men filed a lawsuit that resulted in a $9 million settlement, and then-President Bill Clinton formally apologized several years later—on May 16, 1997, to be exact.

Still, the study is routinely cited as one reason why some African Americans are reluctant to participate in medical research, or even go to the doctor for routine checkups.

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“In the context of the history of the end of the famous Tuskegee experiment, black and brown citizens are reluctant to participate in clinical trials and often delay critical care for curable diseases to the point that there are few, if any, options. be available by the time they present,” Dr. Christopher L. Edwards, retired associate professor of medicine at Duke University, recently told Fox News Digital.

More details and history

In 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service began a survey of black men from an area in Tuskegee, Ala., with the highest rate of syphilis at the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It was originally called the ‘Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male’ (now referred to as the ‘USPHS Syphilis Study in Tuskegee’),” the health agency said on its website.

Left untreated, syphilis can have serious complications, including organ damage.

“The study initially included 600 black men — 399 with syphilis, 201 who did not have the disease,” the CDC added, but the “informed consent of the participants was not collected.”

Left untreated, syphilis can have serious complications. The complications include causing organ damage in the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The study conducted in Tuskegee is “one of the main reasons people in minority communities remain suspicious of doctors and public health efforts such as COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Edwards.

In this March 2, 2021 file photo, a pharmacy technician loads a syringe containing Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine.

In this March 2, 2021 file photo, a pharmacy technician loads a syringe containing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine.
(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

“Health differences are the manifestation of targeted or unwitting differences in clinical outcomes based on clinical and patient characteristics,” Edwards also said.

He is a national expert on factors that influence health outcomes among minorities and black populations and founded the Urban Healthcare Initiative Program, a community-based health and education provider.

“Without confidence, patients have little reason to follow their doctor’s advice. It’s not hard to see why that’s a concern.”

“When known differences in outcomes are not addressed, those most affected negatively codify a historical distrust of the physician and the institution of medicine.”

Trust is the key

The COVID-19 pandemic, with its often inconsistent public health reports, exacerbated the question of trust in the medical profession, Dr. Salerno for.

Health experts are concerned about the decline in screening due to delayed diagnoses, health consequences and exacerbated cancer inequalities in women dealing with unequal health.

Health experts are concerned about the decline in screening due to delayed diagnoses, health consequences and exacerbated cancer inequalities in women dealing with unequal health.
(iStock)

“Compare that to how HIV had a recognizable ambassador like Magic Johnson — and you see the value of consistency and reducing the volume of anxious talk,” Salerno noted.

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But ambassadors can be “a pastor or a hairdresser” or other commoners, because “talking knowledgeable about diabetes or other chronic conditions” from people from recognizable backgrounds has real value, the internist said.

“People literally trust doctors with their health and their lives,” Salerno said.

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“Without confidence, patients have little reason to follow their doctor’s advice. It’s not hard to see why that’s a concern.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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