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.
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”).
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.
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!