How can we fight to end the ongoing racial injustice within the U.S. healthcare system?

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An introduction

Click here to read more about my interest in this topic!

Exploring the history of this issue

While racial inequality within the U.S. healthcare system is its own issue, it is rooted in a much more general issue: racism. Slavery started to come into affect before the U.S. was even founded as a nation: as early as the 1500s, slaves began to be transported to the 13 colonies (History.com), and the U.S. wasn’t even established as a nation until 1784. As the nation developed, racism became common, resulting in the prevalence of racial bias among the medical field. Although it may seem that segregation is a thing of the past, the lasting effects of residential segregation still affect minority populations today. Data found from research on the 171 largest cities in the U.S. found that the worst urban context where white individuals lived was better than the average urban context where black individuals lived (David R. Williams. “Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health: Sociological Contributions”). The quality of a residential area can determine the health of individuals living there, as well as their ability to access quality healthcare.

Click here to learn more about this history of this issue!

The current day state

Residential statistics aren’t the only evidence of today’s manifestations of the problem. Racial minorities can experience racial bias when interacting in person with physicians or doctors. Monique Tello, a practicing physician at Massachusetts General Hospital had a patient, an African American woman, that had taken a trip to an emergency room. “She had a painful medical condition…‘They treated me like I was trying to play them, like I was just trying to get pain meds out of them. They didn’t try to make any diagnosis or help me at all’”(Tello). This specific patient had no history that suggested she sought pain medication. It is highly probable that she was mistreated solely because of her racial identity. The majority of physicians in the U.S. are white, and experiences like this can happen on a daily basis. It has been proven that when a racial minority is assigned to a doctor or physician of the same racial identity, the healthcare they receive is higher quality. Unfortunately, only four percent of physicians in the U.S. are African American, while less than seven percent of medical school graduates are African American (Austin Frakt. The New York Times: “Bad Medicine: The Harm That Comes From Racism”). 

Click here to read more about the current day state of this issue!

 

What can you do?

Unfortunately, when it comes to residential segregation, the solution is mainly in the hands of the U.S. government. However, history has shown that on the governmental level, taking steps towards a solution isn’t a priority: “The Fair Housing Act was created in 1968 to address housing discrimination, but the issue has persisted, not because of a lack of policy remedies, but a lack of commitment”(Richard Rothstein: How Does America Reverse Years of Racist Housing Policies?). Us as citizens can write letters to the government regarding the reversal of segregating housing policies.

Reducing racial bias among the medical field in the U.S. is one of the goals of the California Health Care Foundation. As a student living in California, I became interested in the inspiration and goals of this foundation. As it turns out, the problem of racial injustice in health and healthcare is very much prevalent in the state I live in. The average life expectancy at birth for black Californians is five years shorter than the overall state average. Black Californians also have the highest rates of new prostate, colorectal and lung cancer cases, and the highest death rates for breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer (California Health Care Foundation: Advancing Black Equity). Current projects that the California Health Care Foundation are working towards are fully understanding healthcare experiences of black Californians, cultivating a more diverse workforce, etc. You can check out their Health Innovation Fund here.

 

 

Lastly, a call to action. Please consider the importance of this issue and the harm that is being caused. Writing a letter, researching/donating to a local organization, or even telling your friends about the situation can all help. When taking on a big issue, one step at a time is the best way to go about it. 

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I really appreciate you reading my page. Please do not hesitate in leaving some constructive feedback, as it is always welcome and appreciated. I am especially curious about what you think about my research on the California Health Care Foundation. Do you have a local organization working on improving the current state of the U.S. healthcare system? Again, I really appreciate you reading my page. Thank you!



 

2 Comments

2 comments

  1. Lukas

    Hi Jeffrey. I, too made my project on racial healthcare inequality in the United States. It was very interesting to view a different perspective on a similar topic. I think that your research on the California Health Care Foundation is great. I think that they are very important, as they are trying to cultivate a more diverse workforce. Another local organization that’s working on improving the current state of the U.S. healthcare system is SIREN, or Social Interventions Research and Evaluation Network. They focus on providing research on social and medical care integration, to improve the current healthcare system.

  2. Alicia_242

    Hi Jeffrey!
    Thanks so much for sharing your research, it was fascinating to read through! I’m currently taking a course on the criminal justice system, and it’s really interesting because the technical issues that you’re saying they’re running into in the medical field (regarding using historically racist data) are the same that they are running to in the justice system. I wonder if there would be ways to remove the racial bias in this data because it seems to be impacting the whole of the US rather than merely a specific section of it.
    I don’t live in the US so sadly I cannot answer your question, however, I was wondering if you believe that there should be more done on a higher level to address this issue? I’ve heard of this problem regarding bias in the health care system, however, I did not know the extent of it. Do you believe that there should be some type of federal/government organization that promotes equal healthcare in all the states? Or do you think this would be more effectively addressed on a smaller scale in individual cities/states to tailor to the people living there?
    Thanks again for sharing all your research! It was really interesting to learn about it :).

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