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Patient Trust in Public Health Messaging Videos Depends on Diversity

Participants were more trusting of public health messaging videos featuring physicians and information on preventive screening.

Informative videos have long been a key part of public health messaging, and new data from NYU Grossman School of Medicine is giving insights into how to increase patient trust in those videos, particularly among Black and racially underrepresented populations.

According to researchers, videos that feature physicians as the speaker and that feature racially diverse speakers will be more effective at gaining the trust of Black patients, a population for whom trust in medical messaging has historically been low.

Overall, these findings may help guide future efforts for public health messaging and currently emphasize some pitfalls in the healthcare workforce.

“Our findings demonstrate the need to increase diversity in the healthcare workforce,” said study lead author and urologist Stacy Loeb, MD, a professor in the Departments of Urology and Population Health at NYU Langone Health, said in a public statement about the study.

Published in JAMA Network Open, the study examined the viewpoints and trust levels of 2,900 men and women of either Black or White race watching one of eight videos about prostate cancer screening and clinical trials. The videos about screening and the videos about clinical trials all used the same scripts but featured different speakers: Black patients or physicians and White patients or physicians.

Notably, the study provided insights into who might be effective speakers or messengers in these types of public health messages.

For one thing, Black participants were more likely to trust Black speakers in the videos.

While around 72 percent of Black participants trusted Black speakers, only 64 percent felt the same for White video narrators. This is in contrast to White study participants for whom race was not an influential factor in patient trust.

That could indicate that increasing diversity in messaging and informational videos could be effective at increasing patient trust. While featuring more Black speakers or speakers of other races may not change the experience for White patients, it could increase trust levels among Black patients.

There were also some commonalities between Black and White participants regarding what fostered patient trust. For one thing, both Black and White participants favored videos narrated by physicians over those narrated by patients. This indicates that doctors can play a bigger role in public health messaging, according to Joseph E. Ravenell, MD, a study co-investigator.

“Our study emphasizes the responsibility of healthcare providers to play an active role in public communication, particularly in an environment flooded with misinformation and confusion,” Ravenell, also an associate professor in the Departments of Population Health and Medicine at NYU Langone, said in the press release. “Clearly, people really do trust what doctors have to say,” added Dr. Ravenell, an associate professor in the Departments of Population Health and Medicine at NYU Langone.

Both racial cohorts were also more trusting of messages about prostate cancer screening than about clinical trials, the researchers added. That was somewhat unsurprising, they said, given the historical injustices faced particularly by Black populations in medical research. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment is a particular blight on the US medical system’s treatment of Black and Brown bodies and could contribute to the limited trust patients now have in clinical trial research.

Still, clinical trials can be life-saving, and healthcare stakeholders need to come up with ways to help all patients be more trusting of their efficacy.

“These results underline the need to ensure that all patients, regardless of their racial or ethnic background, have knowledge of clinical trials and can participate if they are eligible,” said study senior author Aisha Langford, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of Population Health, said in the statement.

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