Understanding racial differences in attitudes about public health efforts during COVID-19 using an explanatory mixed methods design

Paige Nong, Minakshi Raj, Marie Grace Trinidad, Zachary Rowe, Jodyn Platt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 rely on trust in public health organizations and practices. These practices include contact tracing, which requires people to share personal information with public health organizations. The central role of trust in these practices has gained more attention during the pandemic, resurfacing endemic questions about public trust and potential racial trust disparities, especially as they relate to participation in public health efforts. Using an explanatory mixed methods design, we conducted quantitative analysis of state-level survey data in the United States from a representative sample of Michigan residents (n = 1000) in May 2020. We used unadjusted and adjusted linear regressions to examine differences in trust in public health information and willingness to participate in public health efforts by race. From July to September 2020, we conducted qualitative interviews (n = 26) to further explain quantitative results. Using unadjusted linear regression, we observed higher willingness to participate in COVID-19 public health efforts among Black survey respondents compared to White respondents. In adjusted analysis, that difference disappeared, yielding no statistically significant difference between Black and White respondents in either trust in public health information sources or willingness to participate. Qualitative interviews were conducted to explain these findings, considering their contrast with assumptions that Black people would exhibit lower trust in public health organizations during COVID-19. Altruism, risk acknowledgement, trust in public health organizations during COVID-19, and belief in efficacy of public health efforts contributed to willingness to participate in public health efforts among interviewees. Our findings underscore the contextual nature of trust, and the importance of this context when analyzing protective health behaviors among communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Assumptions about mistrust among Black individuals and communities may be inaccurate because they overlook the specific context of the public health crisis. These findings are important because they indicate that Black respondents are exhibiting strategic trust during COVID-19 despite systemic, contemporary, and historic barriers to trust. Conceptual specificity rather than blanket generalizations is warranted, especially given the harms of stereotyping and discrimination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114379
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume287
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Public health
  • Race
  • Trust
  • USA

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