Background: In the U.S, a wide body of evidence has documented significant racial-ethnic disparities in women's health, and growing attention has focused on discrimination in health care as an underlying cause. Yet, there are knowledge gaps on how experiences of racial-ethnic health care discrimination across the life course influence the health of women of color. Our objective was to summarize existing literature on the impact of racial-ethnic health care discrimination on health care outcomes for women of color to examine multiple health care areas encountered across the life course. Methods: We systematically searched three databases and conducted study screening, data extraction, and quality assessment. We included quantitative and qualitative peer-reviewed literature on racial-ethnic health care discrimination towards women of color, focusing on studies that measured patient-perceived discrimination or differential treatment resulting from implicit provider bias. Results were summarized through narrative synthesis. Results: In total, 84 articles were included spanning different health care domains, such as perinatal and cancer care. Qualitative studies demonstrated the existence of racial-ethnic discrimination across care domains. Most quantitative studies reported a mix of positive and null associations between discrimination and adverse health care outcomes, with variation by the type of health care outcome. For instance, over three-quarters of the studies exploring associations between discrimination/bias and health care-related behaviors or beliefs found significant associations, whereas around two-thirds of the studies on clinical interventions found no significant associations. Conclusions: This review shows substantial evidence on the existence of racial-ethnic discrimination in health care and its impact on women of color in the U.S. However, the evidence on how this phenomenon influences health care outcomes varies in strength by the type of outcome investigated. High-quality, targeted research using validated measures that is grounded in theoretical frameworks on racism is needed. This systematic review was registered [PROSPERO ID: CRD42018105448].

Original languageEnglish
Article number114983
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Health care
  • Health care outcomes
  • Life course
  • Quality of care
  • Racial-ethnic discrimination
  • Racism
  • Systematic reviews
  • Women's health


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