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Study looks to understand reluctance to engage in healthcare services in some black males

A joint Canadian and English study looked at the reluctance seen in some black men over using a Western healthcare system. 

The reluctance of some black males to engage with healthcare systems, policies, practices and professionals may reflect a perception of the disease and misconceptions about the Western model of healthcare provision that is heavily influenced by historic, cultural, and religious factors.


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According to the results of this study, better understanding of the various socio-political views, experiences and beliefs of black men could, therefore, address any misapprehensions and increase the access and acceptance of such measures to reduce any inequity in cancer services.

Researchers from Preston in the UK and Winnipeg in Canada recruited 25 black African and black African-Caribbean men from London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, the participants were interviewed using semi-structured questions about topics, such as their awareness of risk factors, public health campaigns and their general thoughts and attitudes on cancer and prevention and detection services. Thematic analysis was conducted and various categories emerged.

For some black men, cancer was not seen as an illness that affects black people, compared with how other diseases, such as sickle cell disease, might be more closely associated with their ethnicity. For some participants, cancer was an intrigue and deliberate population control measure.

Approaches towards cancer risk prevention, such as anti-smoking measures, were not perceived as such by black men. Smoking ‘herbs’ such as marijuana or cannabis, even when adulterated with tobacco, was perceived as more positively ritualistic or meditative. Mistrust and negative associations based on historical slavery were ascribed to healthcare institutions, which meant central messages and authority were met with suspicion and viewed as possible control measures.


Mulgeta B et al (2017) Cancer through black eyes. The views of UK based black men towards cancer: A constructivist grounded theory study. European Journal of Oncology Nursing. doi: 10.1016/j.ejon.2017.04.005

Compiled by Dion Smyth, lecturer-practitioner in cancer and palliative care, Birmingham City University

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