Interpersonal Perspectives on Black–White Health Disparities: Social Policy Implications


  • This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Development (1R21HD050445001A1) to Louis A. Penner, Principal Investigator, and a grant from the National Cancer Institute (U01CA114583) to Terrance L. Albrecht and Peter Lichtenberg, Principal Investigators. The article was also partially supported by a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) predoctoral fellowship, 1F31MH079768, to Wynne E. Norton from the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to L.A. Penner, Communication and Behavioral Oncology Program, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University, 4100 John R., Detroit, Michigan 48201. [e-mail:].


There are large and persistent disparities between the health status of Blacks and Whites in the United States. On average, the mental and physical health of Blacks is much poorer than Whites. In this article, we discuss several potential direct causes of Black–White disparities in health status, which include biological or genetic factors, prejudice and related processes, and socioeconomic factors. We also consider how the system-level, patient-level, and provider-level components of healthcare contribute to disparities in health status. We examine in detail the psychological processes associated with patient- and provider-level factors that may produce healthcare disparities. Of particular interest is the potential impact of racial attitudes and stereotypes on provider–patient interactions. Finally, we propose possible directions for future research on health disparities and discuss policy changes that might reduce disparities in health status and healthcare between social groups.