How Black Americans Navigate Health Decision Making

Tayla Mahmud

Written by Tayla Mahmud

Tayla Mahmud leads Health Equity & Multicultural Strategy for M Booth Health. She believes that an increase in health interest and self-advocacy among historically marginalized communities presents an opportunity for health brands and organizations to improve the way they reach and engage these important – and often neglected – health consumers.

Health disparities and inequities in the United States have posed a staggering threat to historically marginalized communities for decades. And while progress in addressing health inequities has been slow, Black Americans are among the most affected. We’ve witnessed firsthand worsening black maternal health data, COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on their community, and continued poor outcomes across nearly every measure of health. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a healthcare system that feels pitted against them, Black Americans are taking greater charge of their health – in many ways out of necessity.

Our Pharma Brandemic research in 2022 found that Black Americans are now the most proactive racial/ethnic group when it comes to managing their health. 

And our most recent research, Chosen Circles, uncovered that Black Americans are creating personal networks of trusted sources to build confidence in the face of information overload and continued mistrust of the healthcare system. 

  • 61% of Black Americans say they have created personal networks of trusted people and resources that they refer to when helping to make decisions about their health. 
    • The results were especially strong among Black Mothers, at 68%.

Who makes up these Chosen CirclesWhile traditional sources of health information remain important, they’re supplemented with a far more trusted – and far less expected – groups of people.

  • The Friends and Family Effect: Nearly half (44%) of Black Americans say that family members are a top source of health information. And more than one in four (28%) cite friends and neighbors. 
  • The Influence of Influencers: More than 1 in 3 (38%) of Black Americans say online influencers and celebrities are important sources of health information to them.
  • The Therapist: More than 20% of Black Americans say mental health counselors and therapists are a top source of health information.
  • A Fractured Patient-Physician Relationship: More than 1 in 3 (36%) of Black Americans did not include HCPs as someone they talk to/get health information from.

Fulfilling an acute need: These networks could not be more important or necessary at this exact moment in time. Black Americans are not getting the information they need from traditional sources, and it’s making them sick:

  • More than 1 in 3 Black Americans say they don’t feel represented in health information, don’t think health organizations care about people with their background, or they don’t always trust the health information they receive.
  • More than 1 in 5 Black Americans say they have gotten sick in the last 12-18 months because they didn’t have access to the health information they needed.

Health communicators and marketers have both an opportunity and an obligation to change the way they deliver health information to Black Americans. It starts with deeply understanding this highly complex and sensitive environment in order to make a meaningful impact. That means taking a community and culture first approach when building any health communications strategy. But it must go further, with a steadfast commitment to creating effective and custom health information for the communities who need it most. And respecting Black Americans as the dynamic and multidimensional audience we are. 


In the News:



“Black mothers are more likely to reject doctor’s advice and seek heal care information elsewhere”
Read full coverage

The Grio

“To save Black mothers, government health agencies must gain their trust”
Read full coverage


“National Minority Health Month: To save lives and tackle healthcare inequities, fix the information gap”
Read full coverage


“Health PR should aim for ‘chosen circles’ when targeting black consumers”
Read full coverage

Also featured on the following podcasts:



“Taking on health equity: stats and solutions”
Listen here


“How Black Americans are taking greater charge of their health”
Listen here


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