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Ethnicity And Disease

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Susan L. Hendrix, MHA, Ph.D.

Susan L Hedrix, MHA Ph.D.

Should the color of your skin, determine the care you receive from doctors or hospitals? If you stated no to this question, you are totally wrong. Just imagine walking into the ER seeking care, because you are in pain, you have a fever, oral and nasal ulcers, but you are perceived as either a drug addict who is seeking drugs to sell or an alcoholic. Yes you read that right.

This is how I am perceived whenever I have go to the ER, (and because of this I seldom go). You see I have received care (and attitude from some physicians) based on the color of my skin. I truly believe that this type of judgmental racism exists in the medical field. Is it the way that minorities have been portrayed in society? Or is it just plain RACISM? When those who think in this manner (in my personal opinion) is not concerned with the individuals health issues, but is more concerned in getting you out of the door for the next individual.

Judgments such as this, leads to advance disease activity, numerous trips to the ER seeking help or just staying at home and not seeking help until it is too late. Did you know that algorithms exists in the medical field ? These algorithms determine who will receive a kidney first the black patient or the white patient.

BLACK PEOPLE IN the US suffer more from chronic diseases and receive inferior health care relative to white people. Racially skewed math can make the problem worse.

Doctors often make life-changing decisions about patient care based on algorithms that interpret test results or weight risks, like whether to perform a particular procedure. Some of those formulas factor in a person’s race, meaning patients’ skin color can affect access to care.

A new study of patients in the Boston area is one of the first to document the harm that can cause. It examined the effect on care of a widely used but controversial formula for estimating kidney function that by design assigns Black people healthier scores.

The study analyzed health records for 57,000 people with chronic kidney disease from the Mass General Brigham health system that includes Harvard teaching hospitals Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s. One third of Black patients, more than 700 people, would have been placed into a more severe category of kidney disease if their kidney function had been estimated using the same formula as for white patients.

Structural Racism and Discrimination does impact minority health and health disparities. Research on racism and health has largely focused on interpersonal discrimination or on individual institutions. So allow me to ask the question to you once again. Should the color of your skin, determine the care you receive from doctors or hospitals?


Resources

Wired (24, May 2021) How an Algorithm Blocked Kidney Transplants to Black Patients. Retrieved from: https://www.wired.com/story/how-algorithm-blocked-kidney-transplants-block-patients/


National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities (24, May 2021) Structural Racism and Discrimination: Impact on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Retrieved from: https://nimhd.nih.gov/about/publications/structural-racism-and-discrimination

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