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The Adversities in Medical Care: The Racism Confronted by Black Patients


In a time where we as humans should have come so far, we still continue to digress when it comes to being afforded the same health care as the next person, especially when you are an African American. There exists those with still blinders on who state that this country (United States) has grown leaps and bounds when the topic of racism is brought up. And there exists those who believe that racism does not exists within the healthcare system. The adversity in medical care does exists and the racism confronted by black patients each and every day is real.


Racism and Medical Mistrust have been a barrier for the Black community for as long as medicine has been around. Black people worldwide, have been subjected to repeated trauma caused by the medical system. From their conditions being misdiagnosed to treatment being withheld for unwarranted reasons, for Black people, going to any medical professional is filled with trials and tribulations. This malpractice has been normalized, and medicine has adapted to include these racist notions in the schooling and training of upcoming practitioners. In “The 1619 Project,” Evelynn Hammonds said, “There has never been any period in American history where the health of Blacks was equal to that of whites. Disparity is built into the system.” 


Historical Context of Racism in Healthcare

The roots of racial disparities in healthcare can be traced back to historical injustices. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which ran from 1932 to 1972, is a notorious example where Black men were deceived and denied proper treatment for syphilis. This unethical study left an indelible mark on the Black community, fostering distrust in the medical system that continues to this day.

Disparities in Access to Healthcare

Access to quality healthcare is a fundamental right, yet Black patients often face significant barriers. According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Black patients are less likely to have access to primary care physicians compared to their white counterparts. This disparity is exacerbated by socioeconomic factors, including lower income levels and higher rates of uninsured individuals among Black communities.

Implicit Bias and Discrimination

Implicit bias among healthcare providers is a pervasive issue that negatively impacts Black patients. Research from the National Academy of Medicine highlights that implicit biases can lead to differential treatment, where Black patients receive fewer pain medications, experience longer wait times, and have their symptoms dismissed more frequently compared to white patients. These biases contribute to poorer health outcomes and a diminished quality of care.

Maternal and Infant Mortality Rates

One of the most glaring examples of racial disparities in healthcare is evident in maternal and infant mortality rates. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. Additionally, the infant mortality rate for Black babies is more than double that of white babies. These statistics underscore the urgent need for targeted interventions and culturally competent care to address these disparities.

The Role of Social Determinants of Health

Social determinants of health, such as housing, education, and employment, play a significant role in the health outcomes of Black patients. Poor living conditions, limited educational opportunities, and high unemployment rates contribute to chronic stress and adverse health effects. Addressing these social determinants is crucial for achieving health equity.

Moving Towards Health Equity

To combat the racism faced by Black patients in medical care, it is essential to implement comprehensive and systemic changes. These include:

  1. Cultural Competency Training: Healthcare providers should undergo regular training to recognize and mitigate implicit biases.

  2. Policy Reforms: Government and healthcare institutions must enact policies that promote equitable access to care and address social determinants of health.

  3. Community Engagement: Building trust with Black communities through outreach and education initiatives is vital to improving healthcare outcomes.

  4. Diversifying the Healthcare Workforce: Increasing the representation of Black professionals in healthcare can help ensure that the needs and perspectives of Black patients are adequately addressed.

Conclusion

The adversities faced by Black patients in medical care are a stark reminder of the enduring impact of racism in our society. By acknowledging these challenges and actively working towards solutions, we can move closer to a future where equitable healthcare is a reality for all. It is only through collective effort and unwavering commitment to justice that we can hope to dismantle the systemic barriers that continue to plague our healthcare system.

References

  1. Journal of General Internal Medicine - Study on disparities in access to primary care physicians. Retrieved from source.

  2. National Academy of Medicine - Report on implicit bias in healthcare. Retrieved from source.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Data on maternal and infant mortality rates. Retrieved from source.

By shedding light on these issues and advocating for change, we can hope to create a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system for all.

Feel free to share this post to raise awareness and foster dialogue on this critical issue. Together, we can work towards a healthcare system that serves everyone with dignity and fairness.

If you have any personal experiences or insights you'd like to share, please leave a comment below. Your voice is crucial in this conversation.

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