According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, Black people in counties with more Black primary care physicians had lower mortality rates, and these counties have lower disparities in mortality rates between Black and White residents.
Previous studies have shown that Black patients treated by Black doctors are more satisfied with their healthcare and more likely to have received and recommended preventive care. However, no study has shown how Black patients receiving care from doctors of the same race impacted life expectancy.
For this study, Dr. John Snyder and colleagues conducted a study to see how Black representation in the US primary care physician (PCP) workforce affected health outcomes.
The researchers analyzed 1618 counties with at least one Black primary care physician in one of the three years studied (2009, 2014, and 2019). The team initially looked at about 3000 pieces of data but had to exclude about half because these countries did not even have a single Black PCP.
The researchers found that in these patients, life expectancy increased by about one month for every 10% increase in Black PCPs. Furthermore, the study also found that every 10% increase in Black primary care physicians was associated with a 1.2% lower disparity in mortality rates between Black and White individuals.
“Living in a county where Black doctors work and thrive “may be a marker for living in a community that better supports Black lives,” Dr. John Snyder, one of the study’s lead authors, said.
The study indicates the reason for the better and higher quality of life of Black patients may be that Black physicians are more likely to treat low-income and underinsured patients. Surprisingly, the study found that this increase in life expectancy was greatest in counties with the highest poverty rates.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Dr. Rachel Upton, one of the study’s lead authors. “It shows having Black physicians is not only helpful across the board, but it’s particularly useful with counties with high poverty.”
Journal source: JAMA NETWORK